Just a quick idea

•9 June, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a quick one for a videogame I’d like to see – a game that’s roughly about Horace Greasley. Someone needs to make this 🙂

Disney Universe

•4 April, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’m fast approaching a year at Eurocom Entertainment Software. This last year has been a great experience, and I’ve been really fortunate to be given the chance to contribute as Project Coordinator on Disney Universe.

I’ve learnt a lot in my position. The main things I’ve had to adjust to are the platforms (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PC) and the scale of the project and team, but I adjusted quickly to the new hardware and I’ve really enjoyed working with an amazing group of very talented people.

I’m proud to have had an impact on the development of Disney Universe, which is a fantastic game to have as my debut console title!

Domain renewal

•17 March, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’ve just renewed my domain, so I’d better start being more active with new posts on here!

Disney Universe released today!

•24 October, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Great news:

Disney Universe

It’s Disney Universe release week! The game is available for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PC. I’m really proud to have had a part in this game, but we’re not finished yet – there’s still downloadable content to work on!

Eurocom

•14 May, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve kept quiet about this on here, but after spending some time on my own projects (which haven’t seen much success), I’ve now secured a new position at Eurocom.

The project we’re working on is being kept under wraps at the moment, but it’s moving to a new Production team who I’m looking forward to working with.

3DS unplayable, phone shopping…

•4 March, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The 3DS experience

It’s been 2 weeks since I first had chance to try out the 3DS. I would be more than happy with the opportunity to work on the devices, but I’m now certain I won’t be rushing to make the personal investment in the near future. There’s nothing wrong with the launch line-up, except maybe the pricing – it could be more exciting, but it’s ok. The visuals took a little getting used to, with the ‘sweet spot’ being difficult to find again if you dared move your head, or looked at the lower screen or Nintendo rep; but I could handle this. My issue is with the overall design.

I’m a lefty, and I already feel recently alienated by Nintendo changing Zelda Twilight Princess to accommodate only for right-handed people. I played and enjoyed the game, but it still felt awkward – Skyward Sword may be my first Zelda rental unless they put the effort in to add a left-handed mode… A real shame and a (miniscule) loss for Nintendo, as new Zelda games used to be system-sellers for me.
On this occasion it’s not Zelda that’s put me off the 3DS – the Ocarina of Time demo worked perfectly fine, felt playable, and looked great – Kid Icarus however requires the player to hold the system with their left hand, using their left thumb for movement, and their right hand to look around using the stylus. I simply cannot comfortably use a stylus in my right hand.
A quick search to see if anyone else had encountered this issue resulted in finding numerous forums where most people had the less-than-constructive feedback “learn to play it right-handed”, and pointing out how this is the minority. Often in life, people are usually unable to see a problem unless they encounter it themselves, and don’t understand it or agree it should be avoided even if it’s explained to them, and a solution would be easy.

Minority or not, supposedly 10% of people is still a lot of people – and out of my friends, I’d say it’s more like 25% in my area… Sort it out Nintendo. Cater for everyone by adding an option. It’s perhaps a bit late for the 3DS hardware, but so far there’s only one game that doesn’t work for me, and adding a few controls options in the software will fix everything, even if it means people like me will not be able to move their characters with the precision of an analogue pad.

Other 3DS observations

I suspect that switching between the 3D screen and the 2D screen below for extended periods of time is going to cause problems with straining your eyes. Time will tell, I suppose.
There is of course the slider to lose the 3D mode, but this makes the only gimmick of the device somewhat defunct before it’s had chance to shine. Finally, I don’t think the Augmented Reality feature of the 3DS will ever work in the fashion they’ve been demonstrating, if your head has to perfectly follow the 3DS around. It can only really work if you keep the device still.

Phones

Moving on, I’m fed up with my BlackBerry randomly turning itself off, and my N95 lagging with its poorly written updated firmware. For my next phone, as soon as I have some positive news regarding employment and a steady income, I’ll be making my choice between Windows Phone 7 and Android…

Dell, it’s time to invest in your online shop – “your system is ready to be built” doesn’t fill me with confidence!

The Windows 7 Series OS still has a way to go, with the promised updates still nowhere to be seen. But from what I’ve seen it’s a solid OS, everything looks lightning fast (as it should with a 1GHz processor) and easy to use. Being backed by Xbox Live there are already some high quality games, and a lot of potential for console studios to port things over. I still want a keyboard to maximise productivity, and the AMOLED screens look stunning so I want one of those; leaving me with the choice of the Dell Venue Pro, or… oh, just the Dell Venue Pro, which is finally going to be available in the UK sometime next week. The device’s minimal RAM and inherent and apparently unfixed issues make me a little suspicious of buying a Dell, and I’m tempted to see what Nokia have lined up before I spend over £400 outright or enter a 2 year phone contract, if the device isn’t destined to live that long…

An Android is also tempting, with similar spec devices available. Its nature as an open platform means it has tons more potential for exciting homebrew projects and additional functionality, and it generally has a lot more developer support, but from what I’ve seen the OS is a little ‘clunky’ and there’s room for improvement. The deciding point may be the support from Sony in the form of PlayStation Suite, but we’ve yet to see how that might pan out, and I’m concerned that once a few publishers are past the licensing headache stage, whoever’s in charge of pricing might ask too much from consumers for unaltered old PS1 games they’ve already long beaten.

Gaming

For the past week, I’ve put down the 360 and PS3 controllers, sent back my rentals, removed the Wii batteries and unplugged my Xbox controller for Windows – and I’ve been playing Theme Hospital on the PlayStation 1. Don’t ask me why, but I decided to go back and see what it was that got me hooked. I probably clocked more hours on the PC version back in the day, but I wanted to properly see how the PS1 version played out, to get a feel for how this genre might work if I attempted my own project of this nature on the consoles, and I seem to be hooked. I’ve got one more level to go, and then I’ll try to see if I can identify what it is that made it so damn addictive… If this is my last blog entry, I sadly caught bloaty head disease and had to give it up.

GGJ – 48 hours of game development

•1 February, 2011 • Leave a Comment

48 hours, 44 countries, 170 locations, 6500 participants, almost 1500 games, one weekend, one theme

It actually turned out to be 46 hours, which may not seem like much of a difference, but we felt it at the end.

Since my last entry, Chris had designed our animated meteorites; Emma made the graphics for the GUI, cursors and icons, and replaced some of my placeholder graphics, and Ian did several more character animations. I put the menus together, and Chris and I designed the levels.

With just two hours to go, we realised, for some unknown reason, that our XNA game wouldn’t install properly on other PCs, so our playtesting was delayed and completely minimised. We were all tired – our poor overworked coder (many of the teams had more than one – all of our game code rested on an individual) seemed completely drained.

Tons of assets (art, pitfalls, animation, music, alternative scenarios) and features would never make it into the released game, but the most important thing to me was (and still is) that we had made an actual game. “The Extravagant Outgoings of the very nearly extinct Cubist Dinosaur” was now ready for anyone around the world to download. And it is a playable, enjoyable, challenging game. A game we had developed, with assets that we’d made, all in just two (solid) days. Something, which if polished (and made completely functional), you might be able to release on XBLA, Steam or PSN.

You can play it on your PC after downloading it here. Please carefully read my installation instructions, as it’s not as straight-forward as it should be. It works best with a 360 controller.

Global Game Jam 2011

•29 January, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been involved with the 2011 Global Game Jam at Staffordshire University since 5pm, where the keynote from Keita Takahashi, creator of Katamari, confused and amused all.

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event occurring annually in late January. GGJ brings together thousands of game enthusiasts participating through many local jams around the world. GGJ is a project of the  International Game Developers Association (IGDA).

The event is a solid 48 hours of development. I signed in, and found myself already signed to Team 4 of 10.
The subject was announced: “Extinction”.

We had a great start introducing ourselves, with most of the people in the team having never previously met each other, identifying our combined skills and options, and quickly putting a concept together based on everyone’s input. We had a short appraisal session, where I was nominated as a ‘Producer’ of sorts by the rest of the team, and Harry was appointed as our coder, as he was the most experienced at coding in the team. We all gathered together to quickly make a realistic vague concept, and Harry quickly started writing code in XNA while the rest of the team got some of the finer details drawn up and written down.

I drew up a quick mock-up shot of how the game might look, using our ideas and contributions so far, and we wrote a list of assets.

Chris researched our subject, extinct animals and their environments, and wrote up some concept environments including various local hazards. Emma helped me create a GUI, and Ian started creating one of the animals in high res, with tons of detail.
By this point, everyone seemed to already be ‘on the same page’, and happy with the challenge ahead.

I’ve since created tons of assets – some of the GUI/icons while Emma makes the others, and the foreground Tiles with traps and animations while Chris shapes the various shaped terrain Tiles.

We’ll do more of the same tomorrow while the rest of the game engine is written, possibly for another couple of worlds/levels/scenarios if we have time.

It’s getting a little late, so I think I’ll be heading home soon…

Online/Browser/Facebook games

•15 January, 2011 • 1 Comment

I’ve spent a fair few hours in the last few weeks playing Facebook games – something I hadn’t previously been tempted to do. But there are a few things you can only learn by simply playing the games for a while, regardless of your level of understanding behind how these games work. The way they’re written and put together and the way they get people hooked and pull in revenue are important factors to understand before creating these apps, but I think it’s even more important to check they work properly.

Even higher-budget titles (by way of example, I’ve spent the most time on Square Enix’s Chocobo’s Crystal Tower, and Ubisoft’s CSI: Crime City) have plenty of issues. I know these titles are both in beta, but I’ve noticed a couple of things I’d personally address if I worked for them:

Hosting
Choosing the right web host is important, along with adding decent state-saving while playing.
Amazon’s Simple Storage Service did not cut it for me (CCT!), unless the problems I encountered were related to updates. In which case, make sure the user is warned when logging-in that it’s scheduled. There shouldn’t need to be a ‘save’ button either – this feature should be completely redundant in an always-connected game.
CSI wasn’t much better at times, where if the server did take too long, you’d be booted and told to refresh the browser. This would be much more acceptable if it didn’t lose some of your progress, or take you past a cut-scene you were watching and not allow you to see it again without playing the whole case again.

CCT error

Addiction
When you figure out what it is that keep people hooked, before or after release, keep on top of it. Raise any level caps when a pre-determined number of players get there. Newer players will put more time (and maybe money) in to catch up. If they have enough friends, they’ll keep playing for positions – 24th place is great when you know the people who are in 25th and 26th well.
CSI has ‘coffee’ to top up units, which you can randomly find in the game, take up to 4 freebies from your friends per day, or buy with real money.
CCT however has both a Breeder Rank and an Ascender Rank, of which only the Breeder Rank is shared with your friends – both are capped, with the Breeder Rank capped at level 30/73,300 points. Once you get here, there’s no more progress to be made, and all the additional points you earn are lost. Regarding ranking positions, it seemed initially that the first person to get to the Breeder Rank cap stays at the top of the ranks, regardless of their Ascender Rank, so you can never beat them. There’s literally no more competitive incentive to continue playing…

Less importantly, but as it’s incredibly annoying it’s worth a mention – I’d love to see more dialogue-skipping options in CCT. It’s simply irritating that it asks me if I want to share EVERY event with my Facebook friends EVERY time. Wait until I have a round number, so remind me to show off when I have my 1st, 10th, 50th, 100th… Alternatively, a ‘remember my answer’ tick box in several places would solve a lot.  Am I sure I want to save? Why wouldn’t I want to save?!
Continuity is a problem in CCT too – feeding Chocobos real food requires dragging, while giving them a treat requires clicking instead. You’re also forced to watch them eat, which seems to take ages when trying to build their stats.

Both concepts have some great psychological elements – CSI where you can rush through finding all the evidence or you can complete searching every grid, and CCT where you can treat your Chocobos as virtual pets, and have some feeling of responsibility for them. Someone will one day make the ultimate browser game, where all productivity and the human race will both come to an end…

Too slow

•31 October, 2010 • 2 Comments

Late last night I came across something that very closely resembles one of my own concepts.

Retro City Rampage, for Wii initially.

The similarity is obviously frustrating, but I wish them the best of luck – and if their product does appear to have some success, I’ll know I’m on the right track with at least one of my other ideas…