Games

Games

Week 6: We’re Participating in the Itch.io Loading Screen Jam!


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Hey Everyone!

It’s been a couple weeks since our last update and we hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We took a little break this past week to spice up our creative juices by attending the Itch.io Loading Screen Jam.

Do you every wonder why loading screens are, well, just loading screens? Do ever wonder why you just sit there and watch a spinning circle as you wait for the next level to load?

Well apparently, Namco filed a US patent 5718632 back in 1995, which forbid interactive loading screens. It’s 2015 and the patent has finally expired, so the theme of this jam is what creative things can you do that involve leading screens.

All we’re going to tell you for now is that our game is going to be a mystery visual novel with small puzzles, humor, and pixel art. Staying true to our studio values, we took the theme to a whole new, deeper level that will delight fans of the thriller genre.

I know we broke some rules that we mentioned in our “How to Make a Game in One Week” post (specifically, don’t waste time learning new skills), but after playing Undertale last week, we just couldn’t resist. So for this jam we picked up some tips and skills on how to write mystery stories and draw pixel art. Here are some screenshots:

 

Business & Marketing, Mind the Trap

Week 4 Updates: Kickstarter Analysis, Networking Fixes, Weird Play/Pause Bug


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Almost 100 Twitter Followers!

We’re currently at around 90 followers. Help us get to 100 and you’ll get endless kisses from Chris!

Kickstarter Analysis

by Kenneth

Like I mentioned last week, we’ve been doing some preliminary planning for Kickstarter next year. This week I came across an interesting article by Joey Daoud (sorry for butchering your name), which looked at the behavior of Kickstarter funders for film projects. I thought: since I did a short job as a data analyst and there’s no public analytics on Kickstarter video game projects to my knowledge, why not do a little analysis myself? This past week I compiled over 90 video game projects that have been successfully funded, are recent, and have a goal in the $1k to $100k range. I choose these criteria because I see these projects as being more “moderate”—they don’t come from AAA studios or developers who already have a huge backing. I’m sure there are many small studios out there like us who don’t have a huge social media presence and need to figure out how to mesh Kickstarter with their marketing plans to attain more followers.

In this analysis, I will be looking specifically at quantitative data, such as the number of backers, funding goal, and pledge levels. My goal is to figure out the average amount a backer pledges for a video game project and how that relates to the funding goal and number of backers. My findings will be published sometime next week on various sites, starting with reddit where I can get some feedback. My hope is that everyone will find this helpful for their own Kickstarter planning.

Development

by Chris

The majority of this past week has been… gruntwork. I’ve been working with online networking a lot to get it out of the way but have been met with a lot of hiccups. We did some testing between computers using LAN and came across some lag. After doing some research, I found that replication, or specifically rep notify, is the least intensive on networking compared to multicast and server-run functions. So I’ve been replacing everything that has been using these less efficient methods with rep notify.

I came across a really odd bug that’s actually been quite annoying. Whenever I simulate 2 players (server and client) in the editor window and press pause, any timeline functions I’m using continues to run. Technically, EVERYTHING in the level should pause when I press pause, including timelines, scripts, functions, and animations. I submitted a bug report and should hear back from them soon.

Business & Marketing, Mind the Trap

Week 3 Vlog Updates: Promotional Campaigns, Camera Controller, Enemy AI, Procedural Generation


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See summary below.

Promotional Campaigns

We’ve been doing a lot of research on ways to promote our game next year, including the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX, Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight.

It’s an extensive process to get accepted into the Indie MEGABOOTH. They look at not only your game but also your company, its members, and how you contribute to the community.

It’s currently too early in development to come up with a solid plan, but here are some preliminary goals:

  • Launch a Kickstarter campaign in the summer. The funding and publicity will allow us to extend development, add more features, and build a larger follower base in preparation for release.
  • Attend PAX in August.
  • Release game at the end of August. Selling in August means we avoid the hot beds for AAA studios to release their games, which is around the September to December time frame. Selling in August also allows us to take advantage of seasonal and holiday promotions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

(more…)

Mind the Trap

Found the Culprits Affecting In-Game Performance


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For such a simply designed game, the Mind the Traps build for the Epic MegaJam was running around 47 FPS on our high performance computer, which was not a good sign. We had some culprits in mind but given the one week time crunch, we unanimously decided to forgo efficiency for a more complete game. Plus, the judges would be using hardcore computers to test the games, so any FPS drops wouldn’t be noticeable.

The week afterwards we played the same build on gaming laptops and the frame rate was unbearably horrid. That’s when we realized that the first thing we needed to take care of to make this game even worth selling was the frame rate. Who’s going to play a game where the characters are teleporting all over the place?

So, what exactly was causing the drop in performance?

Crazy scientist. Young boy performing experiments (more…)

Mind the Trap

Procedural Generation, Part 1: Looking Good So Far


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Mind the Traps is designed to be a fun-filled party game that you play with your friends for a few rounds, kinda like Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. For those reasons, it needs to be action-packed, short and replayable. Originally, we had a few options, such as creating a large amount of levels and adding character classes, but given that this would be our first commercial game we decided to go with a more risk averse approach—procedural generation.

So far, it’s turning out pretty good for the basic floor plan.

proceduralgeneration

If you had a chance to play the prototype, you’ve probably noticed that the game is broken down into pathways and mini-game rooms. We’ve continued with that method of level design and created a blueprint that procedurally generates pathways and rooms at the beginning before the game starts. It follows the simple logic of: for every 2 pathways (white colored blocks), a mini-game room (black block) is created. The final room (red block) is a boss room. 

All of this is kept uniform by following a simple set of rules:

  1. All rooms and pathways follow a simple grid system, where every 1000 by 1000 UE4 units are considered one “unit” in our grid.
  2. All rooms and pathways origin position are the centerpoint of the first 1 by 1 unit. So that if we have a room that is size 3 by 3, the centerpoint is at 1 by 1, the bottom-left-most corner of the square. This is so that calculating the entrance and exit positions of each room and path is uniform and easy.
  3. Every path and room is entered from the south, meaning the players only enter each room and path from the bottom of the room/pathway.
  4. Every path and room is exited from the north, meaning the players only exit each room and path from the top of the room/pathway.

Each previously created pathway and mini-game room is randomly chosen from preset arrays. Having arrays gives us the flexibility of adding more pathways and rooms in the future. (more…)

Mind the Trap, Tips & Tricks

How to Make a Game in One Week | Epic MegaJam Learnings


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Building a playable and presentable game in one week is no joke. In October we attended Epic Game’s biggest game jam to date, the Epic MegaJam. We would like to share our experience on how we accomplished it through scheduling, prioritizing features, coming up with the minimum viable product, and incremental playtesting. You’ll find that it applies to all forms of game development and not just to game jams. To see where it took us, here’s a gameplay trailer of our submission, Mind the Traps.

In the end you’ll find the download links for the winners of the MegaJam. I highly recommend playing their games for your learning.

Half of our team had school or a day job, so scheduling was key to get us started and to ensure we would finish the game on time. We listed out the phases of development, assigned what needs to be accomplished in each phase, and allocated the number of hours to be spent in each phase.

1. Choose an awards category (30 minutes)

Choosing an award to aim for helped create the framework for our game’s design. We wanted to make a game that we would enjoy making and potentially sell, so given our quirky personalities and love for multiplayer party games it made the most sense that we target the Addiction (most fun) award. (more…)

Mind the Trap

Play “Mind the Traps” Now!


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We’re happy to announce that our game jam submission, Mind the Traps, is now available to play for free! Download the game here.

Mind the Traps is a multiplayer dungeon crawler, but unlike games of this sort it’s a light-hearted and chaotic party game. Use your friends as a tool to clear the path so that you can get ahead. Oh, and by the way, there can only be one winner…

Since we received a lot of positive feedback so far, we’re committing to finishing this game and would really appreciate your thoughts. Any criticism you guys have will make this game better and better.

The current version is a prototype that came out of the Epic MegaJam last week. It is designed for two to four players in local multiplayer on a PC using gamepad controllers. This game is playable single player, but is highly discouraged.

Have fun!

Games
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We’re on our way home from Davis! We got ourselves a nice hot cup of Cocomo (dazzling chocolate, coconut infusion) from Dutch Bros Coffee. Yea, say that once without saliva coming out of your mouth.

dutchbros

Aside from the terrible, waking-up-ever-hour sleep with plastic bedsheets at Motel 6 and the mentally draining Epic MegaJam that literally just finished the day before yesterday, the game jam was a lot of fun. It was hosted by the UC Davis Gamedev & Arts Club as a fun ice-breaker event for all the new members to start learning how to use Unity and work in groups. The more experienced members, including ourselves, spent the day mixing between making our own game, answering questions and mentoring the students. You can imagine the excitement on their faces when they won more than half of the award categories! They had ridiculously creative concepts.