05 Jun

NewbQuest Ep. 1: Interview with Noel Berry, Game Designer and Developer of Skytorn

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In this first episode of the brand new NewbQuest podcast I sat down with Noel Berry, who is the game designer and lead programmer on Skytorn.

Skytorn is a procedurally generated action adventure game, set in the ruins of a fallen world.

“Centuries after a mysterious cataclysm tore the world apart, humans have taken to the skies – ferrying their kin in airships, searching the remains for artifacts and survivors. Explorer Aiva ventures out on her first dive, landing on an uncharted island. Alone and armed only with a shovel, she is determined to carve her own path.”

  • Plummet through the clouds towards unique unexplored islands.
  • Observe, hunt or protect strange wildlife.
  • Converse with cryptic strangers.
  • Fend off predatory creatures with your trusty shovel.
  • Uncover ancient structures filled with secrets.
  • Challenge towering monsters to deadly combat.
  • Use the dynamic environment in creative ways to survive.

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We had a great conversation about Skytorn, game development in general and Noel offered some really helpful advice for those of us who are starting out in the process.  A few topics we discussed include:

  • Are Flash games still a useful place to enter game development and try to monetize?
  • What tools should you use if you’re new to game development?
  • Is participating in game jams a good way to get started as an indie developer?

You can subscribe to the show via iTunes as a podcast, and if you choose to do so we’d love it if you’d subscribe and leave us a review.

You can also watch the video of the interview via our YouTube page and if that’s your preferred format we’d appreciate if you could like, subscribe or comment over there.  Somehow I only recorded Noel’s camera for the video, which is a little weird. Whoops! Still working out the bugs, but the show must go on.

I’d just like to offer a big thanks to Noel for taking some time to come on the show and to you for checking it out!

To learn more about Noel you can check him out at his website, for more on Skytorn you can head to it’s official site and to follow Noel on twitter you can head here.

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11 Mar

Obsessive Compulsive Development Talk

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Just watched a really good talk from Matt Gilgenbach of 24 Caret games about the struggles and mistakes he made during the development of his game Retro/Grade.  It’s a really emotionally raw and honest talk about a series of bad decisions he and his partner made in terms of investing way too much time in things that didn’t ultimately result in the success of his game.

I think there are some really useful lessons for new developers here even if his is not a new developer story. Here are a few takeaways I got from it:

1) Play Where You Can Win: as a small indie studio trying to compete on things like 3D rendering quality against AAA studios is a losing battle. Choose an art style where you can do something expressive and polished within your resources.

2) Set a Deadline: Gilgenbach describes a circular loop they fell into of being afraid to ship since they’d spent so much time, which caused them to invest more time (and money). Choose a date or other trigger that will force you to call the product good enough, not keep tweaking and adding endlessly.

3) Focus on Saleable Features: This is a bit of a hard one but important I think.  Technical features like frame rate and resolution help sell games but they are secondary. It’s more important to invest energy into features that are easy to communicate to the player like: “You can turn into a badass dragon and fly around burning stuff!” Not: “We created a modular re-usable game engine for all our future games!”

I highly recommend this talk and want to offer my thanks to Matt Gilgenbach for being so open, honest and vulnerable in sharing this valuable information. Talking about painful experiences like this takes courage, especially in such a public platform.

Check out the talk here for free from GDC Vault, and check out Retro/Grade on steam here.

23 Nov

Newbquest Dev Blog 5: Simple 3d Procedural Level Generation, Physics Based Weapons

 

In this latest update in this series of dev blogs documenting my progress learning Unity, procedural content generation and scripting I show how I have created a very simple procedural level generation system and physics based weapons for my flying six degree of freedom roguelike game Butterfly.

I’ve been very interested in the roguelike hybrids that have appearing recently, games like Spelunky and Risk of Rain.  I love the idea of procedural content generation, especially with regard to levels.  I’ve been experimenting with it myself and have come up with a very simple system that is working for my current game project Butterfly.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when I actually hit play on Unity and it spawned that first randomized level!  So coooooool.

I’ve also added some pretty cool physics based stuff to the game including re-working my homing missile system to be physics based instead of using transform manipulation.  The result is a lot more graceful and less glitchy.  In the process I have been learning a TON about javascript and unityscript and am really enjoying that.  I’m actually getting to the point where I can imagine and write scripts that do the things I want without having to google for hours to find something pre-built.  That is an incredible feeling.

I have to also take a moment to express how much fun it is working with the Unity platform and community.  The people on the forums and Unity Answers site are just incredibly friendly and helpful and I have learned a huge amount just reading the existing body of questions and answers.  If you are on the fence about choosing Unity as a platform I really can’t recommend it more highly.

26 Oct

Butterfly Dev Blog 4: Shields and Ammo

In this update I added a shield system where you press and hold a key to spawn a shield around you which blocks projectiles.  The shield has a ‘capacity’ resource which runs down the longer you hold it. When it runs out the shield stops working. When you release the key, the shield will recharge and fill back up in between engagements. I also added an ammo function which tracks how many missiles you are allowed to fire and disables the firing capability when you run out.  For me both of these tweaks are an attempt to add more frequent and relevant decision making to the game. I want the player to be having to make as many decisions as possible over the course of the game and so am trying to add mechanics which force them to consider their next action, even if they are doing so very quickly.  The balance between something fast paced and strategic is interesting to me and something I’m hoping to explore further as I go.

 

19 Oct

Newbquest Dev Blog 3: Health System & New Music System

Just added some new features to the game, the latest is a simple health system, big shout out to Jessie Etzler for the free script and easy to follow YouTube tutorial here. I’ve also added a simple music system I wrote myself where depending on where you are in the game world it will crossfade between three different music loops. I walk through the script of how I did it in the blog, maybe it will give you some ideas for music systems in your own games. I also made some improvements to the targeting system for the enemies which still needs a bunch of work but is feeling a lot more responsive and fun. Combined with the health and music it’s starting to feel more like a real game experience, which definitely has me feeling more motivated.

17 Oct

Newbquest Developer Blog 2: Game Design and Music Sample

Trying to keep the rhythm of posting something every day or at least every day I work on the project.  Today was a long day at work so I am sharing a short piece of music and a game design document I created in Xmind.  Xmind is a cool, free mind mapping / flow chart tool which you can download here.  I enjoy it for this type of project design work and you might too.

Was this interesting at all? Not sure if this type of non-unity focused content is interesting or useful for anyone but I’m still figuring out the format here. Thanks for checking it out!

16 Oct

Newbquest Developer Blog 1: Butterfly Intro

I’m back! It’s been a while. I was very busy, but now, here I am.  I’ve decided to experiment with a new format for this blog which will focus on posting short video developer blogs, showing the progress I am making with learning to make games in Unity.  This is a short intro to my current level of progress, as I work further on the project I will provide more detailed explanations of what’s going on and what I’m up to. This first short video is showing what I’ve created so far and explaining a few of the systems involved.

The project I’m currently working on has the working title: Butterfly.  The basic idea is that you fly around in 3d space  as a butterfly and shoot missiles at other butterflies.  Although at the moment it’s quite absurd my goal is to develop it into something more visually beautiful. I’d like it to be a visual audio experience as much as a game and so I’ve got some placeholder audio and visual assets in there to start.  Once I get things going a little less shakily I’ll post some web players so you can try the mechanics yourself.

A few notes about my approach.

My goal in posting these videos and blog posts is to try to meet other people who share my interests, and to hold myself accountable and motivate myself to make progress. I feel like having an audience, even if it’s very small, will help to keep me on track.  I was very inspired by what the people at Overgrowth are doing with their documentation project. I am not as cool as them, nor is my game, but hey.

I am very inspired by the Lean Startup methodology so a big part of the reason I am sharing this in such an early state is to try to get some impressions and feedback from anyone who looks at it.  I welcome all feedback, positive, negative and everything in between.  If you think this is a dumb idea, that’d be great to hear! If you’d like to see it go in another direction, that’d be great too.  My goal is to try to build up this simple prototype and iterate on it until it becomes something cool and fun and to try to do that in a fairly public way through this blog.

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment here or on the YouTube page where the video lives. I promise to reply to everyone.

Thanks!

Matt

 

 

12 Apr

The Quest to Learn to Make Games: I Found a Team!

I found a team to collaborate with!  I’m totally psyched. I’ve been invited to join a group of 5 guys (including me) with the goal of executing a small game project.  We are still working out the details and doing some conference calls (via skype) to talk about what idea we’d like to develop and getting to know each other so there’s nothing to share on that front but it’s great to be in communication with a group of guys who share my goals.

Some of us met through the Unity forums collaboration section and have agreed that we will use Unity as our development platform.  There’s a range of experience levels in the team but everyone is contributing at least one core function. So far the functions are music, two programmers, one artist and a guy who has already developed a series of games and has an animation background along with some programming.  In addition to our core game dev functions the guys all bring a couple of additional skills like business development and accounting from their day jobs.  It’s worth noting that we are all spread out all over North America and everything is happening over Skype and email at this point.  I’m looking to get us on some kind of document sharing platform like Google Docs or Evernote soon to cut down the volume of email a bit.

We are all contributing ideas for a theme and game mechanics at this point.  We are trying to approach the project from a more business oriented and less hobbyist-like perspective and so will try to make some of our decisions based on things like demographics and available market data.  We’re hoping to do something small and achievable with a team of our size and get a prototype together in a 2-4 month development window. Needless to say I’m super psyched! For the time being we’re sort of in stealth mode so I can’t really share too much detail wise but the guys on the team know about this blog so I’ll see what they’re comfortable with me sharing on here.

The lesson that I take from this and that you guys can use is to put yourself out there! Forums seem especially good but use whatever means of communication at hand. Unless you let people know that you’re looking to collaborate and learn together nothing can happen. And if you do you might find some great people to create something with!

Mentioned in this post:

The Unity collaboration Forum