Monthly Archives: July 2009

Gamasutra Expert blogs

News Gamasutra Expert blogsAlthough I admittedly don’t have the time to look at every single blog post that comes out of Gamasutra (I’m far too busy saving the world), I make a point of scanning the weekly expert blogs roundup to see what the editors have deemed to be the best and most thought-provoking entries of the past seven days.

This week’s list has quite a few zingers in it, so if you’re looking for some Friday reading to ease in the weekend (hooray!), look no further.

I particularly enjoyed one writeup entitled Fatal Flaws in Flash Game Design and Development. Don’t be fooled by the title: it contains some really good advice for pretty much any developer out there, so make sure you load it up and have a look.

Have a swell Friday, y’all.

-Nandrew

When pigs fly

News When pigs flyWhen Pigs Fly. Everybody and their dog seems to be playing this game at the moment, so I decided to give it a shot this morning. Developed by Anna Anthropy (aka. dessgeega, aka. auntie pixelante, aka. “space invader, game creatrix, pixelbitch, and dot-matrix dominatrix”), this game gives you a pig. With wings. And obstacles that you need to negotiate without breaking said wings.

If you’ve ever played Balloon Fight before, it’ll actually give you a very good idea of how this game feels. Momentum and grace are the key to a cool experience and not dying quite as much. While the premise seems to be remarkably one-dimensional, my professional evaluation of it will probably stay in the neighbourhood of “dunnolol, it’s fun anywayz”.

It’s a fun exploration/momentum game with the added bonus of giving you a player rating at the end. Meaning, of course, that you can immediately show it to one of your friends and shout, “EETS AWN, BITCH!”

My final score was 149 “accidents” with a time of 19.51, in case anyone was wondering.

-Nandrew

Use Boxmen

Everything about Use Boxmen says ‘happy.’ The music sparkles in the background, what simple narration exists in the game is silly and smile-inducing and the characters ooze charm out whatever wazoo they might have in their deformed crayoned bodies. It would be such a great setup for a bit of coffee break relaxation. Such a pity then, that it isn’t. What we have here is a deceptive little piece of software designed purely to lure in unsuspecting gamers with its friendly demeanor, and then savagely drop them into some of the most challenging puzzles ever to involve mass stickman slaughter.

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Games vs Life: Handguns

News Games vs Life: HandgunsSo maybe you’re a gun nut. Or maybe not. Personally, I’ve never fired anything more high-powered than a paintball rifle, but the good folks at Wolfire have just become full-blown firearms wizards after shooting it up at their local firing range.

On the blog, they make an in-depth comparison between firing a real-life weapon and snapping one off in a videogame, and while I’m not tempted to glorify any sort of in-the-flesh gunplay, I must admit that it was a fascinating read. Academic, even. Whether you’re a gun vet or not, it should give you a few things to mull over.

Ironically, their current project doesn’t really call for gunplay at all, but they did note that it’s a valuable experience for future games. Of course, this could just be an excuse for them to shoot at stuff for an afternoon. Works either way. Pew pew!

-Nandrew

The Casual / Core War

News The Casual / Core WarSeriously, somebody just give this guy a freaking medal already. James Portnow is one of those darling industry people who regularly and uncontrollably spouts nice big essays of complete sense and logic for the rest of humankind to benefit from.

I’ve always been a little bit peeved about uptight developers who look down their noses at the casual games industry. So I’m glad to see that in a recent Gamasutra opinion piece, James has made some points which are hopefully a bit more coherent and thought-provoking than my diatribes of blustering and harrumphing.

To put it simply: the “casual” and “serious” game markets are both a pretty big deal nowadays, yet there still seems to be little to no crossover in terms of skill pools or even interpersonal networking. It’s like we have two completely different camps of very talented game developers that have built a big fat wall between them and now spend most of their time growling at each other and throwing rotten fruit. This is how people prefer to interact as opposed to, say, working together constructively.

Admittedly, I’ve attached a bit more fire and brimstone to this whole thing than is necessary, so maybe you’re better off just reading the piece itself. I’m also not going to be a dick by pointing out that while some people a couple of years back sneered at the concept of a powerful casual industry emerging, I totally saw it coming. Because that sort of self-aggrandisation is really quite beneath me.

I’m off to play some Peggle. I hope that I’ve been preaching to the choir.

-Nandrew

Python and Roguelikes

News Python and RoguelikesI’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Python: it’s a really fun, easy-to-use language that literally brings joy to the coding process, and I’ve yet to run into a programmer who actively dislikes it. Heck, even if you’re not into “pure” Python, it tends to be incredibly useful when thrown into the mixing pot with some raw C%2B%2B.

But before I waffle on any further, have a look at this little piece on GameSetWatch outlining one writer’s quest to create the ultimate Roguelike in Python and what exactly it taught him. The piece is mostly in programmer-nese and will thus be a little on the dry and technical side for some, but if you’re a Python enthusiast (or would just like an overview of the language’s strengths and weaknesses) then this is a treasure trove of game development info.

Am I a fanboy? Probably. Give us your own opinion on Python as a game development tool, if you fancy.

-Nandrew

Mo’Minis comp results

News MoMo’Minis – which we’ve mentioned before in Issue 29 – is the fairly innovative mobile development platform that is looking to bring the simplicity of tools like Game Maker to the mobile arena. While it is currently still in beta and offers no way to deploy games to mobile devices just yet, after a competition whose results have just recently been published, the site’s already populated with a handful of games that run in an online emulator and serve as a preliminary example of the software’s capabilities. In fact, the winner of that competition walked away with a fancy new phone, a share of the revenue earned on online portals and a clean $2000 on top of that. Quite a neat prize for 3 months of work.

Not letting their current momentum go to waste, the Mo’minis crew have also kicked off another competition with more cash prize incentives. If ever mobile development interested you and you have a handful of hours to blow during the coming month, now is a good time to try out this dev system and have a chance to swell your wallet by a few hundred American cash-monies. Make a game exploiting a common “gimmick” in a fun way using Mo’minis Studio and submit it by 10 September to get yourself in the running for your share of the score of Benjamins that are up for grabs.

- Chippit

Fives – Imitating Life

They say that art imitates life, which is something that for all intents and purposes we can pretty much agree with. And of course, depending who you ask, games are a form of art, so the saying must be applicable here. Now I was going to go on about how every work of art is different and represents life in a different way, but it seemed like such a schlep to have to go through all of that to reach the real point:

In this magical game called “real life” we, the characters, have to deal with nonsense like gravity and the very worrying realization that if a car should happen to drive into our homes, chances are good that we’re going to have new piece of furniture sitting in our living rooms. This is something that games everywhere try to replicate to make us shout “Wow! Just like in real life!” – Possibly from the passenger seat of the mauled vehicle which is now sitting conveniently in front of your TV.

Of course, as with most art depicting reality, game physics don’t quite get it right, leaving us with some really weird side-effects. Let’s count down 5 instances where games and their whacky physics have made us contemplate driving cars into people’s houses, just to see if they’ll bounce back!

5. But I shot you…in the head!

In the games

Guns and shooting and swords and stabbing have been staples in games since the days of the NES, with blocky characters shoving a blocky pointy thing into other blocky things to make them die. Naturally, we’ve come a long way since then. Well, sort of. You see, even though the blocky characters are now beautifully rendered models that always seem to shine as if they were covered in baby oil; the stabbing and shooting is still pretty old-school in terms of their impact on that which is being attacked.

Sword slashes man; man staggers and continues as if he were merely pushed back by a gentle shove. Gun shoots man; man stops and then continues as if he simply walked into an invisible pole. Flashbacks of the black knight from Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail are swimming through my mind. Either the metal used in these weapons is actually really a rare cheese, or the people you’re trying to kill are very, very persistent.

In real life

Well it’s all really simple, isn’t it? Someone shoots you and you’re going to go down. Someone stabs you and you’re going to be severely hampered. If you’re lucky you’ll get to play the lottery one last time, but probably not.

Explain yourself!

Fallout 3 gives you the wonderful V.A.T.S. system, allowing to you freeze time and target specific parts of your enemy. This system works beautifully for causing critical damage but also raises a few questions. Why, when I have crippled your head, can you still move around, let alone fire a weapon at me? Why, when I have stabbed your eyes bare, can you still aim at me with any degree of accuracy? And for the love of all that is holy, why, when I have firmly punched you in the groin multiple times, can you still be chasing after me, contents of your stomach still firmly in place? In all fairness, crippled limbs do slow people down and make them more inaccurate in their aiming – but they can still walk and hold weapons as if nothing was wrong.

What do you expect from me?!

I’m not suggesting games be true to life in this regard, (we’d all die far too easily making things insanely difficult) that would be silly. But it would be great to see some more realistic penalties, as it were, for specific injuries. Also, crotch shots should render any male enemy completely useless, naturally.

4. Disappearing act

In the games

You’ve just made your way through 20 enemies with a chainsaw; stopping a moment to catch your breath, covered in blood, you excitedly turn around to see the massacre and carnage left in your wake. Decapitated heads! Intestines! Courtney Love! The most gruesome scene ever to be pl- oh hang on a moment…where is everything?

Ok, so the above was mostly just for dramatic effect; usually it’s no surprise to you because enemies usually disappear right in front of you (though the quick ‘disappear while the camera’s not on us’ trick is also pretty common). Minutes of bloody handiwork, gone in seconds. What a waste.

In real life

We here at Dev.Mag don’t condone violent acts. But should you find yourself in a situation whereby you have made your way through a group of 20 people with a chainsaw, I’m afraid turning around and hoping the bodies will be gone when you look back again isn’t a viable solution. Better call a good defense lawyer.

Explain yourself!

Well, here we have two – and both of them are Capcom beauties: Dead Rising and Resident Evil. Good ol’ Resi-Evil took the “make them disappear unrealistically into some goopy thing which then also disappears” route. I assume this was so that they didn’t have to worry about Chris or Leon getting obstructed by corpses and having their motor functions hindered further.

Dead Rising decided to go with “disappear when the camera’s not looking” approach. The difference? Well, Dead Rising smartly ‘layered’ the act – that means that they didn’t all disappear at once (most of the time) so that by the time you started wondering why you weren’t up to your neck in zombie guts, there were a few zillion more corpses spread around.

What do you want from me?!

Having bodies remain on the map is probably very resource-heavy for developers, so it would be unfair to expect games with mass carnage to be true to life; however, if you’re going to have bodies disappear either make it flashy so that we don’t care, or at the very least wait until we leave the room so that when we get back we can create our own wild theories like crows ate them, or something. But seriously, disappearing bodies shouldn’t even be in the equation with most games these days. [An interesting point here: Gears of War 2 tends to keep certain gibs and decals around for ages. Some multiplayer games degenerate into slideshows as a result. Conversely, Doom 3 enemies evaporated into fiery clouds of evil dust, which made sense and solved this problem. Score one for id? – Ed]

3. Staying act

In the games

Speaking of corpses; on the flipside of the disappearing act, we have the situation where bodies don’t disappear. Some games decide characters should simply clip through the bloody mess, while others decide to apply the wonderful ‘rag doll physics’. As the name implies, this allows your character to toy around with the dead like a father with his red-headed step-child. Sounds good in theory, but boy do they get it wrong in practice.

While most characters appear pretty solid in life, in death they usually turn into weightless (and quite limber) husks of flesh. That and they emit some oily substance that sends them gliding across the floor. Seriously, only in games are most enemies more mobile in death than they were in life.

In real life

Have you ever tried to move a corpse? Man, it’s TOUGH work. Er, I mean, many people have reported that it is tough work. Does dead weight mean anything to you? You are more likely to trip over a corpse, than send it flying across the room in your stride.

Explain yourself!

Dead Space. You can pretty much decapitate corpses and remove various limbs by stomping on them with your 736-ton shoes. And then kick them around like empty milk cartons.

What do you expect from me?!

Make dead bodies heavier and less mobile. It seems so easy, yet no one’s done it right just yet.

2. Weight-watching

In the games

While we’re on this (aren’t you loving how everything flows?), mass isn’t something reserved for the corpses of those who stand in your way. Many games today (especially the ones who want to show off ‘dynamic lighting’) have started taking out the nails that have kept set-pieces tied to one spot for years. That’s right! Marvel as the vase casts a realistic shadow as I carry it around! That’s great, but it would be better if I wasn’t carrying the three-seater sofa in my other hand at the same time.

It seems in their excitement to make everything able to move around (well most things anyway), developers have forgotten that, generally, things have different weights – and that a door closing on a tin can causing it to roll a few meters, shouldn’t have that same effect on a trolley or life-support unit.

In real life

Well it seems a bit silly when you say it out loud, but in the real world a can and a couch are actually pretty different in terms of their weight.

Explain yourself!

I hate to say it, but Fallout 3 immediately comes to mind with Silent Hill 5 and Dead Space coming a close second. Dead Space allowed you to use kinesis energy to move a plethora of objects, but even running into things sent them flying about. I drew the line at a couch, which hurtled across the room because I looked at it funny. Silent Hill also had this weird habit of movement making everything in the room shake; but Fallout 3 is in a league of its own – running past a shelf makes its contents basically fly across the room as if an army of poltergeists were suddenly pissed off at you.

What do you expect from me?!

If you’re going to make it move, make it move realistically. Easy!

1. Selective Destruction

In the games

In any game involving weaponry and a smidgen of free-will, we have, at some point or another, tried to shoot the wall to see if it leaves bullet holes. Admit it, you’ve done it too. Thus begins the slippery-slope of destructible environments. It starts innocently enough. A bullet hole here, a bullet hole there. Then we start shooting at the windows to see if they shatter. The cans to see if they fly. The fruits to see if they explode. Soon we are taking the bonus chainsaw we found under the desk and attack anything just to see if it will break. Most of the time we are disappointed of course, but it is always worth trying.

Then came the age of physics. Surely if it moves, it can break? Surely if it’s made out of wood it can be cut? If it’s glass it will shatter? The box I hit, nigh seconds ago, broke with no problem so this flimsy looking box…? Sadly not. Welcome to the world of selective destruction, where there exists only two kinds of materials: that which can be broken, and that which cannot.

Don’t let appearances fool you; it may look like glass, metal or wood, but it’s either breakabilium or unbreakabilium – the only elements that govern the gaming world.

In real life

In the real world we have a much more diverse range of materials used to make things; and almost always they are destructible in some way. Usually a chainsaw works quite effectively. With everything.

Explain yourself!

Oh dear, where to begin? Perhaps it would be easier to simply just say Grand Theft Auto. Driving through the streets you’ll doubtlessly plummet through everything taking out cars, pedestrians, signs, street lights, traffic lights, small buildings1, large buildings2, national landmarks3 and small European countries4. Until you hit into a tree that is. With roots wrapped around the core of the earth itself, that birch isn’t going anywhere. Yes. Birch.

What do you expect from me?!

I guess we should be happy that developers are applying real-world physics to games at all, so, fine. Forget everything above, I’m happy that we at least get to enjoy the wonders of slip ‘n slide corpses and aero couches. But as always, there must be a line drawn somewhere. If you’re going to apply selective destruction in your game, at the very least, try to be logical about it. Please.

Bonus

Fall from glory

Two words: Assassin’s Creed. Diving off of high towers? Falling great distances? Altair’s kneecaps should have shot up and taking his eyes out by now. Not that that would matter mind you, he’d still be able to walk around and aim accurately enough to kill you.

1No, not really

2This is a lie

3Unlikely

4This one is true

New Xbox Live Indie Games developments

News New Xbox Live Indie Games developmentsThe revamping of Xbox Live Community Games comes with more than just a new moniker, apparently. The most important new feature among those recently announced is the new pricing model:

Instead of the old 800/400/200 MSP options that were previously available, options will now be remapped onto a new 400, 240 or 80 point system which games can apparently switch between at will (within physical size restrictions similar to those imposed before). Games previously priced at 800 points may remain that way at the discretion of the developers.

Additionally, developers now have the option of handing out tokens for their game, which will presumably allow them to offer free copies to people. Great for keeping those picky journalists happy, right? *Winkwinknudgenudge* and all that.

In addition to all that money stuff, the service has also been extended to some regions which were previously left out of all the fun, and there’s a new reputation system which will rate developers based on activity. This would extend to game quality too, if we had our way; it’d be a fairly simple way to separate the wheat from the chaff. No word on what exactly the rep system affects yet, though, so we’ll wait and see. In the mean time, get making more XNA games, folks! This platform is looking as promising as ever.

- Chippit

ShellBlast free weekend

News ShellBlast free weekendAt the time of going to print (man, I’ve always wanted to say that), Dev.Mag’s secret ninja investigation squad was able to confirm that gamers had approximately 15 hours left in which to download a free copy of ShellBlast from Game Giveaway of the Day.

ShellBlast is a good ol’ bomb defusal puzzle game thing which is due to make its way onto Xbox Live Indie Games soon under the moniker of ShellBlast HD. This particular PC download is just over 21 megabytes, and will save you approximately five US buckazoids if you grab it before the Game Giveaway timer breathes its last.

Via IndieGames, because Dev.Mag doesn’t actually have a secret ninja investigation squad. Not one that we’d tell you about, anyway.

-Nandrew

Sims Carnival Game Creator

News Sims Carnival Game CreatorMy attention was recently brought to the beta of something called The Sims Carnival, an easy-to-use small games creator from the people who brought us, well, The Sims.

The link to the original games seems tenuous at best (more like a chance to cash in on a brand name), but the creator really is rather intriguing. After having a look at the introductory video and playing around with the system a little bit, I’ve deduced that this is a lightweight — yet surprisingly detailed — crafting tool.

I don’t know if the average user is going to be satisfied with the potential this bugger offers, but it could be a good springboard for people who want to make games from the comfort of a familiar, Sims-like interface. Heck, one has to applaud the designers for cramming all of this game creation potential into a single-screen interface. It really simplifies things.

-Nandrew

The Behemoth doing stuff!

News The Behemoth doing stuff!The Behemoth is working on something new,” says the Big K. “Castle Crashers is coming to PS3,” says the horse’s mouth. “This is awesome,” says I.

Lots of stuff is being said about the successful indie devs-with-humble-beginnings recently, and we all think it’s great because we get more cutesy, flashy graphics with excellent use of the whole of that fancy 24-bit colour palette we have nowadays. And I like colour, unlike *cough* some people *cough*.

So yes, I’m happy to hear that they haven’t fallen off the radar. Few devs are capable of creating such simple, distilled fun in a game; fewer still are indie too. Good luck, fellas. Is it too much to hope to play this soon?

- Chippit

Time Gentlemen, Please!

Last week, the editor brought to my attention a neat little adventure game called Ben There, Dan That!which was making its own little waves in the adventure game pool, at no cost at all. I was also directed to the fact that, as a result of adventure gamers going “OMFGWTF THAT WAS AWESOME!”, creators Zombie-Cow decided to follow up the, admittedly mini-, adventure with a full-scale release (read: sequel) – Time Gentlemen, Please!

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Painting a pretty picture


Polynomial‘s been getting around lately, with its beautiful fractal landscapes (in three dee!) attracting a lot of attention and even more awe-struck gaping. We accosted the game’s creator, Dmytry Lavrov, for a chat about its creation.

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Indie Game Challenge

News Indie Game ChallengeThe IndieGames Weblog has told me of this hot new Indie Game Challenge, a little something which will apparently afford indie developers the opportunity to get their games full-on published: or at least honoured with a $100 000 prize.

Entrance ain’t free, folks — it’s $100 to secure your place in the competition — but the premise seems to be rather flexible. All you have to do is submit a few copies of your game (properly documented) and a motivational video outlining why you believe your creation should win the competition. Do this before October and you’re on easy street.

There’s more details on this page if you’re keen for it.

-Nandrew

Fives – Survival Horror

We’ve all been there: you’re alone, walking down a dark passage, firmly gripping an axe in your hands. You can hear your heart pounding in your ears because you’re surrounded by complete silence…except for the mysterious sounds coming from behind the door at the end of the passage. As you draw nearer you stand in something. Something wet. Something warm. It’s blood. Nervously you move your hand to open the door. Locked. Upon closer inspection you notice a diamond etched under the lock.

Obviously all you can do it trek back through the darkness (and unknown) on the off-chance you’ll come across a key that, maybe, has a diamond back? Let’s not forget that there are zombies about as well. And not to mention that what’s making those noises behind the door could be worse than any zombie. I guess there’s no choice but to go ba- Oh wait, axe. In your hands.

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