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Mind the Trap
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Cue the Indiana Jones theme song dun dun dun… Currently working on a boulder-centric dungeon.

Game Jams, Games

DYSTOPOLIS Postmortem


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DYSTOPOLISbanner1.png

DYSTOPOLIS is a run n’ gun shooter set in a minimalistic cyberpunk metropolis, where you have the ability to redirect bullets using an ability called the “Gravity Well.” The game is available on itch.io for free here, so please try it out and let me know what you think!

Coming up with the Idea

At the time of the game jam, my brother and I were obsessing over the latest co-op indie game we picked up, Broforce. We were a fan of the different ways you could play the game, whether by going rambo and lighting up the landscape with machine gun fire, or by using stealth to sneak behind the simple AI characters and hit them from beneath the ground. No matter how you decided to play, this game was a difficult arcade shooter, where a single mistake would cost you your life. So while we were thinking of ideas for the game jam theme “rigging” we thought we could give making a shooter a try for this game jam, where you could instead “rig” your bullet trajectories through an in-game mechanic that we called the “Gravity Well.”

GravWell.gif

However, before we could get started on the game, my brother had to go on a vacation with my family, so I was left alone to work on the game solo. This gave me a great opportunity to practice some skills that my team usually handled such as the art design.

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Mind the Trap
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We’re excited to announce that we’ve been accepted for the Indie Prize Showcase for our game Mind the Traps! woot! The 3-day event takes place as part of Casual Connect in SF, where attendees will have the opportunity to demo their game, sit in workshops, and network with industry professionals.

Credit for Beemo art goes to MeTaa

Mind the Trap

New Build Submitted for the IndieCade Festival | Fingers Crossed!


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The IndieCade Festival is an exciting opportunity for accepted developers to showcase their games, network with fellow developers and industry professionals, and meet with potential publishers. During these past couple weeks we’ve been developing a new build for the application in response to all the live feedback we’ve received from the Indie Arcade Gaming Expo. Without further ado, check out some in-game footage!

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Mind the Trap

Week 14: Debugging in All Its Glory


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Roughly every two weeks we do a check-in with each other on the game’s progress. We sync up all the work we’ve been doing, make a build, and playtest the crap out of it to make sure it’s still headed in the right direction and to prevent any game-breaking bugs from carrying forward.

This week’s build consisted of over 15 different pathways, 10 mini-game rooms, and 3 bosses. To no surprise, we playtested it over 20 times and found a whole bunch of game-breaking bugs, such as gates closing on the players before they could leave the room and items not getting deleted when the mini-game ends. Now we have this massive list of things to fix before our next build. Yay!

An interesting finding was that platforming, specifically jumping across suspended platforms, was not good for pacing. It was really frustrating to fail the jumps over and over, and it became something only the more skilled players could pass through quickly. For a party game with a low skill cap where players gain enjoyment from messing with each other, this was not a desirable outcome. As a result we removed all the platforming-heavy pathways.

platforming

On the upside, good progress was made on a few things. The procedural generation is efficient and very speedy. Online networking is working much better—nearly all the replication issues we had previously are now taken care of. Lastly, the mini-games are turning out to be a lot of fun.

Mind the Trap

Week 12: New Minigames and Pathways


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Happy New Year to you all!

*cough* We’ve been slacking off a little on the weekly updates—new year resolution duly noted—but we’ve been hard at work! Here’s what’s been goin’ on since December of last year.

Minigame Rooms and Pathways

As some of you may recall, Mind the Traps is a dungeon crawler designed around pathways and rooms. In each room the players duke it out in fun Mario Party-like minigames yelling at each other and gawking spit from uncontrollable laughter. Between each room are sets of connecting pathways, a highly varied assortment of pillars, floating platforms, bridges, spikes, hidden traps, obvious traps, monsters, etc. etc. This is where all the devious fun comes in muahahaha.

Jodie has too many coins? Let’s smack her into the pit of lava. George winning too many minigames? Just let the monster snatch him up and feed on him until his pockets are empty of coins.

During these past couple weeks, we’ve been planning out all the minigames, traps, types of monsters, bosses and pathways and have been gradually crunching them out. The plan is to have a fully playable version by the end of this month, featuring 5 bosses, around 12 minigames, and about 30 pathways. Here’s a screenshot of us playing with fog and new procedurally generated pathways.

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Here’s a teaser for one of the boss concepts we’ve been playing with.

Spring traps boss (Twitter)

Story

We wanted the story and narrative to scream Stanley Parable and Battleblock Theatre—ridiculous and sarcastic humor. The team got together this past week and spent a good day chucking out a narrative. For now, let’s just say it involves puppy treats and squirrels, but we’ll reveal more later on. 😀

 

Mind the Trap

Week 9: Online Networking Works, Next Year’s Plan, Profit Sharing Plan


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Online Networking

Our UE4 guru, Michael Lee, just finished his finals last week and of course couldn’t wait to get back to work. In a few days, he got the online networking to work! Woo! Trying to get this to work has been a huge pain for Chris this past week; apparently, it’s because of the way our router is set up.

Integrating online play is still up in the air. Mind the Traps is a party game that you enjoy with your friends, and if your friends are around you as opposed to behind the screens then it’s even more fun. Playing online actually does more damage than give convenience. There are a lot of games out there that only offer local play, e.g. Towerfall Ascension, Spelunky. It’s not an all-or-nothing option for the player.

Plan for Next Year

Chris and I will be finishing up the technical portion of Mind the Traps by the end of January, and our artist will come onboard around the February timeframe to touch up the game, add in new characters, design the bosses, etc. His artwork will be a strong tool for marketing and building up hype for our Kickstarter campaign in the summer.

Profit Sharing Plan

The elephant in the room. Running a business means everybody has to get paid! We’re very fortunate to be working with a flexible group of people that isn’t worried about being paid in the immediate term. Kenneth has been working on a profit sharing plan, which is a payment model in which everybody is compensated only when the game makes a positive profit. Everybody takes a percentage of the profit sharing pool based on how much time they can commit to the game’s development.

Ludum Dare 34

Judging is still ongoing for another week. If you’re a current participant, it would be an awesome Christmas present if you vote on our game!

 

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.

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…)