Monthly Archives: April 2009

Mastermind: World Conqueror Review

In the mainstream market there has been a lot of focus on moral dilemmas recently. Bioshock asked its players if they would rather save deformed little girls than bump them off for the ability to set their hands on fire. Fallout 3 wanted to know if greed is enough motivation to sacrifice an entire town. Even GTA 4, the game with a heart so black it makes total eclipses seem just a tad gloomy, had a couple of moments that had its audience asking themselves, “Good lord, what have I just done?” (Although admittedly the poignancy of these moments is dulled slightly by the amount of moments where the players just giggled and said “Did you see his head go under that truck?”)

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Introversion’s “Truly Terrible” 2008

News IntroversionIntroversion Software (the guys who brought us Darwinia, Defcon and the ability to talk about indie developers without having listeners go “bwuh-uh?”) have recently surfaced to tell us the short and nasty of their past 365 days spent struggling with Multiwinia’s marketability.

It’s a sobering – even depressing – set of blog posts which confronts readers with a rather harsh reality when it comes to the world of business and indie devs. On the flipside, the humility these pieces instill (along with the lessons they teach us) make them a pretty important set of articles for any market-minded dev to pay attention to.

Thanks to Kotaku for bringing this one to our attention.

Fighting the Narrow Game Focus

The way I see it, modern indie development is imbalanced. Not in the way that a foul-tempered DotA player would scream “IMBA!” after getting killed for the fifth time in succession – no, I’m talking more about exposure, attention and who is playing what out there. I’m talking about everyone’s tendency to play the same narrow range of “cool” stuff without ever bothering to explore the wider market.

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Game Dev from the Dark Continent

To many developers, the fine art of game creation lies strictly within the domain of the first world. Europe, America and Japan have all been sitting pretty with a very well-developed industry for a while. Other territories have recently hopped onto the bandwagon, of course: we have high-profile offerings such as the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series from Ukraine, and the more recent Zeno Clash from Chile. But in terms of pumping out loads of awesome games, not many people currently look to Africa.

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IGN promotes Xbox Community Games

News IGN promotes Xbox Community GamesAfter reading up on the latest XNA Creators Club Communiqué (because everything is better with fancy accented letters), it seems that gaming Website IGN is throwing in some weight to help profile and promote some of the better community games out there.

The Xbox Live Community Games initiative has received mixed reactions from gamers and developers, with some lamenting the poor organisation and accessibility of games under the “Community” moniker. The IGN picks are intended to highlight some of the better games and encourage more players to try them out.

The current week’s pick of games has been noted on the communiqué here.

Cockpit Competition Closes

News Cockpit Competition ClosesSo, we’ve been keeping a close watch on the recent TIGSource Cockpit Competition (the theme of which was, funnily enough, cockpits) and now the results have been somewhat unofficially released.

Emerging as the winner is Enviro-Bear 2000. This is possibly one of the most stupid games in existence. And we mean that in an entirely flattering manner. It’s hilarious, offers a super-packed punch of fun in just a few minutes and … well, you’re a freaking bear driving a freaking car. Just give it a shot, and do your best not to bump into any angry badgers.

This news post proudly brought to you by Dev.Mag, because TIGSource were too slow to post their own results. Insert mischievous grin here.

Glum Buster

News Glum BusterWe’d admittedly never heard of Glum Buster until a few days ago when it was posted on the IndieGames blog as a freeware game pick. Even then, we didn’t pay overly much attention to it until it was reviewed on TIGSource as well, at which point we decided to get off our collective butts and investigate the cause of all this hoo-ha.

It’s a bit difficult to say much about Glum Buster without giving away too much – it’s a simplistic, surreal puzzle game with a heavy emphasis on exploration and … well, exploration. And figuring out how things work.

Oh, and the game is officially labelled as “charityware” – that is, if you send in money to show your appreciation of the product, the author swings that money (and a personal contribution) to a charity organisation.

Here’s the link if you missed it earlier.

Spacehack

This article originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 27, released in November 2008.

SpaceHack is one of two Game.Dev DreamBuildPlay 2008 entries. It eventually placed among the top 20finalists in the competition. The following is a discourse by one of the game’s two creators about the creation process and the story behind the game.

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Sagrario’s Room Escape

The tone of the Sagrario’s Room Escape is cleverly set upon finding a plain manila folder containing nothing more than a simple page on which is printed – in friendly letters and with an accompanying smiley face – the words ‘good luck’. This cheeky challenge warns you that the game is going to be a struggle. In fact, it’s likely that most players will start it without ever completing it, ever being aware of their goals, or, in fact, ever reaching this point. This is in contrast the apparently simplicity of the setting: a small, spartan room with only a Vitruvian Man hanging on one wall, a small briefcase lying on the floor, and a chair blocking the only obvious exit. The later discovery that the aforementioned, apparently insignificant note is also a very subtle clue for one of the later puzzles is a testament to the game’s devious design: nothing is as simple as it looks.

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Funding for start-ups evaporating

News Funding for start-ups evaporatingThe recent economic recession, having mostly had little effect on the well-being of the video game industry, appears to be taking its toll. According to this developmag.com article, the past few months have been turbulent waters for smaller companies that rely on private funding to survive.

Private investors appear to have become reluctant to sponsor game development studios – or anything else for that matter – and the smaller ones that rely so heavily on outside funding in order to establish themselves may be in dire peril. With video games being such high-cost ventures, it appears that many start-up studios (and those that are otherwise not yet self-sufficient) may find themselves struggle to secure (or retain) their funding during the entire development processes of their projects.

Put simply, it may not be such a good time to start that gaming company you’ve always wanted to found, unless, of course, you happen to have a lot of money waiting in the bank to keep yourself going until you can convince someone to let you use their money instead.

(Via Kotaku)

The difficulty of difficulty

If there’s one thing that I take pride in when I offer humble slices of gaming pie to oh-so-hungry colleagues, it’s my ability to carefully consider the difficulty level. Whether I’m making a run-and-jump platformer or a purely cerebral puzzle game, I always live by the same basic mantra: give the player a helping hand.

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Mobile gaming “fixed”!

News Mobile gaming "fixed"!Game.Dev Competition 21, one of the regular community competitions that have, on numerous occasions, led to the conception of far larger projects, finally has its outcome. Amidst the veritable oceans of second-rate and cookie-cutter games, this competition challenged community developers to “fix mobile gaming” by creating something truly tailored to the platform, and – most of all – something actually fun.

After much lengthy deliberation, the results are out:

1st Place: Code Attack – Jeronkey

Code Attack is ready to be built for a mobile device. The simple yet clever implementation of the number sequences to destroy asteroids is surprisingly addictive, the controls fit the mobile devices usage and the clear graphics are suitable for the small displays of the device. It’s a winner.

2nd Place: Grav Warp – Nandrew

Grav Warp’s technical brilliance is marred only by its staggering difficulty and lack of context or reward for completing a level. Extra polish in the form of a rewards system and some or other explanation for its purpose could very well make this The Unique Game for mobile platforms. Until then, it nets second.

3rd Place: Cow’s Quest – Agrajag

A deeper game than either of the other winners, this Boulder Dash clone has a strong interface that’s very well suited to mobile gaming. Its slower pace and bizarre physics keep it in third place.

Ultimate Quest

This article originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 27, released in November 2008.

Ultimate Quest is one of two Game.Dev DreamBuildPlay 2008 entries. It is an expansion of a ASCII-styled text adventure that was originally entered into a Game.Dev competition, polished and completed for Microsoft’s annual competition. The following is a discussion by one of the game’s two creators about the process of creating the game.

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How to Use Perlin Noise in Your Games

(Originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 20, released in February 2008.) Perlin noise is the foundation of many procedural texture and modelling algorithms. It can be used to create marble, wood, clouds, fire, and height maps for terrain. It is also very useful for tiling grids to simulate organic regions, and blending textures for interesting transitions. In this article I will explain how to implement Perlin noise, and how you can use it in your games.

Edit 19 June 2011: The examples were originally given in pseudo-code. Unfortunately, these contained some mistakes, which many commenters helped to sort out. I finally replaced the pseudo-code with real C#, copied-and-pasted from a working file (which you can download below). Hopefully it will make the algorithms easier to understand. Note that efficiency was not considered at all; the code is a fairly direct translation of the original pseudo-code.

Edit 19 May 2012: I always thought the cloudy noise described in this article is called Perlin noise. Turns out, it is not. The worst is, I cannot say with hundred percent confidence what it is called. Fractional Brownian Motion (fBm) seems to be the most likely candidate, but to be honest, I am still figuring out whether my simulation is technically equivalent to the ones described on Wikipedia (nevermind that Wikipedia may also have it wrong).

Real Classical Perlin noise, and simplex noise, can also be combined, just like the “smooth noise” is combined in this article, to give cloudy noise. This is what confused me (and others, I presume). Cloudy noise generated from Perlin noise looks much better (it is not as blocky), although for many purposes the cloudy noise described here will work fine. So if you are interested in how to make cloudy noise… read on. I will follow up at a later stage with more concrete information about real Perlin noise.

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Lots and lots o’ Flash games

News Lots and lots oIf there’s a fine example of rapid prototyping and game development out there, this has to be it. Big Hadron Games caught our attention from a recent postmortem on Game Career Guide which outlined their pains and gains from making a whole bunch of Flash games in a really short time with a pretty small team.

This project includes some Global Game Jam entries like For Shame and Treelings, which aren’t half bad considering that they were made in 48 hours. We strongly recommend that you actually play through a few of their games before checking out the postmortem.

If you want a brief overview of why prototyping is good for you (and all that other stuff), there’s an article over on NAG Online that you may want to look at.

Art Games: The Super-Duper Guide

Hello there, dear reader. Welcome to the super-duper guide to art games. You’ve made a good choice in bringing your eyes to these pages, we promise. Settle down, pull up your favourite comfy chair and make sure that your eyes are at a respectable distance from the computer screen. Ready? Let’s go. We’ll start with an itty bitty analysis of the following deep and meaningful sentence to kick off a deep and meaningful article:

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