yupaleap, nausicaa, yupa

Utah Indie Game Jam 2015

Last weekend was Utah Indie Game Jam 2015, which you can read more about at www.utahindiegamejam.com and see posts about on the mailing list at www.utahindiegames.org. I arrived early, ready to volunteer and help organize. The space was very nice, plenty of tables and chairs and outlets, but not many extra rooms. UVU graciously hosted and even provided some snacks and judging partway through.

We had quite a scramble as things got started, since I was on the fence about joining a team or going solo again. I ended up joining Jed's team, Katamari II, with another programmer, sirbrialliance, and Kenneth who would handle audio. We had the theme "Secrets" and the element "Hole". (An element, for Indie Speed Run, is something that has to appear in the game, while the theme is what the game is about.)

The design phase went through a typical brainstorm and headbutt phase common to teams with newer developers, but I think I managed to help keep the scope tiny while providing something that each team member felt some ownership of. The mashed-together idea left a lot to be desired in many ways, but I felt like I could make it work, and eventually we got to work.

Many hours of heads-down jamming ensued, with sirbrialliance quickly helping me get re-immersed in Unity, and even though he was only there the first day or so, he hammered together a lot of great work in a short time. We had the core loop done in the first 24 hours, and spent a bit of time fine-tuning it. I spent most of the rest of the time polishing the audio experience, which I felt would be critical, given that we didn't have a visual artist (the star scapes are procedurally generated).

The wonderful sponsors brought treats and one of the nights I went home for a full night's sleep. After this jam, I'm even more convinced that an all-nighter is counter-productive. One of the nights you can go ahead and cram a few extra hours, but you should still sleep at least one cycle during the night. I consumed Soylent during the jam, which may have helped keep my brain functioning towards the end.

I only had a couple frustrating points, and luckily sirbrialliance was able to deal with most of the bugs quickly and effectively. I'd recommend him for most any programming team. The most time-consuming points for me were getting the video and audio in and playing right, but it was rewarding learning some things about audio and video playing that I hadn't known how to do before. sirbrialliance did most of the portal work, and I handled game control and progress.

You can play the result here: http://vazor.itch.io/the-wishing-well (firefox or opera or another browser may be needed)
Other games from the jam: http://itch.io/jam/utah-indie-game-jam-2015/results

The controls are explained in game, but if you want to beat it: after you have granted two wishes, look for your lover's wish (you'll see a note about it being familiar), and grant that to win. Kenneth did an amazing job getting six full tracks of audio and sound effects done all in the weekend for the game.

We presented with the other teams, with the judges sitting in the front row and everyone else attending in the audience. Kenneth cut the deadline pretty close and I barely got the audio and last few bug fixes in before we were up to present. Jed did the talking and our presentation showed very well. I felt like the audio and sirbrialliance's visuals and the easy-to-understand story and our gameplay loop all came together and formed an emotional experience that really impacted the judges. I shared a grin with the others on my team as we wrapped up our presentation. I knew I had helped make a polished and worthwhile experience, and it was enjoyable being able to show that we had realized our original vision and have people "get it". Say what you will about art games, they are a joy to make- it seems easier to push the boundaries of your art form if you aren't worrying about making it a typical button masher/shoot everything/be the hero game, or worrying about conversion metrics/price points/revenue models.

So how did it turn out? We won!!!
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/utah-indie-games/6RdPg2c44t0/IUhFZqwGCgAJ

There were so many great games, I was surprised when we walked away with 3 prizes and the Grand Prize!! It was a great moment for me, and I was very happy to get recognition for our efforts. I felt like the above-mentioned emotional connection, plus sirbrialliance's epic portal technology, really sealed the deal for us. I like to thing I put my 8+ years of jamming experience to good use as well, guiding/trimming the design, and devoting nearly half my weekend hours on creating and polishing the start and end game logic and getting the whole experience packaged and uploaded.

Personally I would have given us Best Audio and given Narrative to Bag of Secrets, and probably Lumosity grand prize, but I trust the judge's decision and thought they did a good job overall.

I'd like to give Puddin' Paws a shout-out since it really was pretty marketable (for that niche audience that likes to mix bathroom humor with cute cartoon characters) and had a solid monetization design.

I'd also like to give Clan Destiny a shout out since it looked like the most fun to play with friends. I'd like to see that as a category next year, along with the judge's suggested "Technical Achievement Award".

Finally a big thank you to Nightghost49 for coming out and doing videos. We'll have them posted on the mailing list in the next few weeks. We learned a lot about mobile streaming challenges, including ensuring internet connectivity, time constraints, challenges of award ceremony lighting, event participant tiredness levels, and interview seating/camera arrangements.

Here's to another great jam and thank you to everyone who tested and had nice feedback for us!

tsukasa, .hack, dothack

Formative

Here is a short interactive experience for the month of September. This month has been busy with many meetings, events, and a terrible neck strain injury, but I'm feeling better now, and I managed to complete something, which I'm happy about.



Formative is an educational game about how we gain personality in our formative years. I have often pondered just how much power these random moments from our youth have over us, as I observe the behavior in pets and reflect on my own memories.



Reading up on the subject inspired one theory about how it might work. Under this theory, your brain becomes wired a certain way and is certainly difficult to change but not impossible (even physical chemical addictions can be overcome, as I understand it).



Play on to discover how I imagine this might work. (Warning: may require two or three different browser attempts, as it uses newer HTML5 technology.)



http://vazor222.com/Formative/



PlayCanvas is an interesting, if still young, engine which I may come back to. It is sort of like Unity3D in a browser. I don't like the way they want to host everything, but they do give download and local options for most everything I can think of. Creation was fairly painless, but there are plenty of obvious shortcomings and some bugs for them to work out still.



Thanks for reading!


wars, Guild Wars, Guild, Wars, guild

StealIdeas

Here you go, the game project for the month of August: StealIdeas!



This is a game where you steal ideas from other developers. It helps explore what that might be like and I hope that it helps potential developers think about what they would want to do to defend themselves from such an attack, if anything.



The game is pretty humorous and was quick to hammer out thanks to Twine being pretty straightforward. I've gotten pretty familiar with it now. It succeeds in putting you in the shoes of an idea thief, which isn't too surprising, but still fun. It does a great job I think of helping people understand the types of things they should research if they're worried about this. The numbers are probably way off, though (all of them were pulled out of a hat or at most a quick google search).



http://vazor222.com/StealIdeas/



I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment if you find any glaring mistakes or just want to post your thoughts on this subject.




yupaleap, nausicaa, yupa

SpeedMiracle

This month's entry comes a bit early because I decided to merge it with a game jam submission so I only had 72 hours to work on it and I can't edit it after the jam.



Crunched on the weekend to get this game created in 48 hours, but I let the vision get too big for the time I was putting in, so I had to cut several things and the final product isn't as good as I would like. I was elated at being able to get a game in (basically) raw javascript that works and has the one or two critical features I was hoping for.



I think the speed miracle element did for sure add some fun for explorer, collector, and conquerer types. Seeing the clones pop up when you weren't expecting them led to a pleasantly surprised moment, where the game is turning out to offer more than you expected. Elements based on player velocity (literally or otherwise) should definitely be considered and included in games striving to be great.



See the result here (modern browser recommended): http://gamejolt.com/games/speedmiracle/80285




Dirge of Cerebrus, Vincent, Final Fantasy

MegaGame

Here is another game inspired by the SOWN2014 trip. This month, the game project was also part of the WAG Challenge run by the IGDA Writing SIG. http://itch.io/jam/wag-challenge



I explain most of the concept and origin of the game on the challenge page, but here are a couple additional thoughts. I really wasn't able to scope it down enough to fully explore feature creep. I still get ideas from the original prototype that fit in the parameters, and from where I stand now, I think there are three possibilities.



First, you tighten your scope with strict rules and limits, even something as severe as you can only output a 1 or a 0, and you will still be able to feature creep yourself into crunch time. Many humans are amazingly creative, and their minds are built around coming up with ideas and suggestions in the face of limits. The only way to stifle feature creep, is to kill creativity. This is what most time-limited projects are forced to do, sometimes badly.



Second, you allow feature creep, and you don't want to kill creativity, so what do you do? You have to find a filter of some kind- a way to say, "it's done." Some of the best games have that filter by utilizing a single, focused creative director who owns the vision and is good at expressing the vision both artistically and technically. Other great games filter by committee agreement- more cumbersome but arguably able to please more people. Other games filter by bug count or feedback ratings or something similar. As a minor note, in this scenario, some of the feature creep suggestions will conflict with each other and decisions will have to be made about which thing to include.



Third, of course, is an infinite project. Perhaps World of Warcraft will exemplify this, if it never dies. Perhaps there are other open source projects that are like this. Perhaps in the future there will be AIs that make this happen as well. Something like this is certainly in the realm of thinking big.



Anyway, enough rambling. Here is the game. Please go check it out and feel free to comment or tweet and let me know what you think!



http://vazor.itch.io/megagame/




yupaleap, nausicaa, yupa

Thoughts on Discoverability

I attended the UDEN meeting last week, which was really great. I got to meet a lot of up and coming movers and shakers, as well as many existing movers and shakers in the game industry in Utah.

Steve Taylor from Wahoo Studios spoke about the history of his company and answered a lot of questions about their success and their struggles. It was a really great talk and I recommend finding the recording and watching it online once it is posted.

One of the topics that came up in his speech and in the networking afterwards was Discoverability. This is a term that describes the problem of getting your game in front of players and allowing them to discover it. I'm not sure why we don't just say "marketing"... maybe it's to differentiate the specific problem of making sure your game is easily discoverable within featured lists and other lists of games provided by curators like console manufacturers (e.g. Microsoft XBox) and game library platform owners (e.g. Valve Steam). The discussion got me thinking and so I put together some of my thoughts and decided to post them here. Feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to add!


1) News - I've read many success stories that pinpoint their biggest impact as "being featured on a popular blog or youtube channel" - which says to me that news and show coverage is a big deal. This is one of the reasons I'm so eager to see an "indie sneak peek" style event every year. Maybe the Salt Lake Gaming Con will help fill that void.

2) Story - good mechanics and gameplay can create a small and loyal following, but a fan community around a game with a good story seems to capture a larger audience. Just as you need a story to be featured on the news, the story can be a simple origin story for your studio and your passion for the game you're making, or the story can be the game's story.

3) Niche - I think if your game caters to a specific audience, and you shine above your competition in that space, then that will spread via that community and quickly become popular in that limited audience.

4) Curated Streams - This is really a subset of News, but refers to being Featured or listed in a Curated list of some sort, like the IGDA list on kickstarter. The more people that follow this system, the better. Obviously, being featured on the XBox console store front page is a bigger deal than being featured in a top ten list by a youtube streamer with 100 followers. That said, it should be noted that there are rumors going around that the top youtube streamers are now generating more discoverability/revenue traffic than big game news sites like IGN.

5) In general 'virability' needs to be thought about in your games. Just like, if you want to sell internationally you need to localize - if you want to spread your game 'virally', you need to make it easy to share. Think about what makes you want to share things, and more specifically, what makes your target audience want to share things, and then create those kinds of hooks/sharing points in the game's UI or menus.


More about UDEN:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/UDENUtah/
https://twitter.com/UtahDEN



yupaleap, nausicaa, yupa

Indie VS Mainstream

With the end of May comes the end of another month, and this time the game I have created is a simple one-click twine adventure that reveals two new ideas: multiple avatars at once, and physics in a text adventure. It is very simple but gets the core across and I enjoyed learning Twine. The coding is basically just javascript, so if you like that then you'll like developing in Twine.



http://vazor222.com/IndieVsMainstream/




yupaleap, nausicaa, yupa

StationaryAction

April is done and despite lots of new distractions (dice game design contest, company tournament, zelda, terraria, public transit, LCHF diet) I finished something. I tried out a new engine (Godot) but wasn't very impressed. The game itself is very simple and explores the question of whether you can make a stationary action game. Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments if you like!



http://vazor222.com/StationaryAction/




kirby, hello, happy

MakeLevels

March was super busy with GDC and SaltCON but I did finish something. I am pretty happy with the game this time, even though I went over my month time limit a little bit. I am excited to see any one else's ideas on the most fun level, the level that brings them the most success, etc. Head on over and check it out if you want to explore the interactive experience medium within the silly tiny boundaries I've set. Can you make a level with only these rules and this tiny level editor, which can bring the player power or love?



http://vazor222.com/MakeLevels/