Monday, December 24, 2012

Slow to a 'Pause' and playing some ... GAMES !

Well, a couple of months have gone by and development wise,  I've slowed down to an almost stop or pause if you may. What with the return to work after ill health and the run up to the end of year holidays, life has kind of got in the way a bit. Although, at the beginning of November, I got an Xbox 360 Slim and I am liking the experience so far. Even though I only play it for a couple of hours a week, it has a wealth of games, both to buy and free to play. Plus, other cool apps, like on demand music and video content.
A couple of years ago, I owned a Sony Playstion 3. After nearly 10 months of owning it, I sold it. However, I would like to see the Xbox being with me for a lot longer. There is enough to play and see with it for quite a while I think.

So, if I haven't been developing, what kind games have I been playing on the Xbox ? Well, here are a few of my favourites so far  ...

Pixelosity ::

This game is so, so addictive ! It has the look of an 8-Bit Atari game with all of the adrenaline rush of a frantic shoot'em up you would expect. Well worth playing and paying for this one !

Fez ::

One of the games featured in the 'Indie Game Movie', which you must buy or watch. Very compelling and a real inspiration to any would be or current independent game developer. You really begin to realise how much stress and strain goes into making a game, even if only one or two persons are involved with a project. Against, the sometimes tens or hundreds in bigger game companies.

I have only played this for one hour, but have enjoyed ever minute of it so far. Who could not like a game with a character that wears a 'Fez' hat ?

Trials HD ::

I both 'hate' and 'love' this game at the same time. The thrill of making it across a course only to be angered by jumping or landing too short, thus resulting in quitting the game after several failed attempts whilst screaming colourful metafores at the Television. Trials Evolution is even better with a more outside feel, against being locked up in a rather larger warehouse.

I must admit, playing Trials Evolution resulted in me being less frustrated and tempered than Trials HD. Perhaps the open air environment helped ? It definitely helped with the gameplay anyway, much more interesting. When I played the game, I instantly thought of 'Kickstart', a trials programme back in the 1970's and 1980's on BBC TV.

There was also an early taste of this, in the form of 'Kikstart' on the Commodore 64 back in the 1980's from Shaun Southern.

The buzz and flashback of playing game, certainly came flooding whilst playing the Trials series of games on the Xbox 360.

There are a few more games that I have played, many were demos, like ; Super Meat Boy, Sega Rally, Daytona USA, Afterburner Climax and many others. It is just a case of buying ones I will want to play a lot, I am sure that time will come soon.

As well as playing on Xbox games, I have played a few on the PC and on Android. On the PC, Super Meat Boy and Death Ray Manta. Both are superb indie games, oozing with game play and special effects !

Super Meat Boy ::

Although, there are times you may get frustrated playing 'Super Meat Boy', an urge to get that bit further succumbs you and you'll end up playing it for a further half-hour. Until the need to stop occurs and your game controller saves itself from being thrown at the nearest wall or hard surface. Jump and slide, just jump and slide and get to your girlfriend, as soon as the sweat from playing it allows you to ! Just be determined ! You've got to do it I tell you !

Death Ray Manta ::

A visually stunning game with insane amount of bullets at your disposal. You will get drawn into this game, the colours will do it, you will be hypnotically tranced and the world around you will not exist until either you need to visit the bathroom or there is a powercut. I would best describe the visual effects like an orgy of colour, I assure you, you will not be disappointed with 'Death Ray Manta' !

The Android platform has been getting some gameplay love too, here a just a few games that I have been playing over the last few weeks ...

Retro Racing ::

Although the above video was based on the Apple app, this game plays and feels the same on Android. It reminds me of the Amiga games back in the 1990's with lots of colour and great game play. Retro Racing is well worth a play and pay !

Lagertron ::

I was involved with the playtesting 'Lagerton' and what a great game it is too ! Based on Robotron, you must blast your way through 40 levels of shoot'em up action ! The Google Play Store blurb says it all ... 

" The evil aliens of planet Lagertron have invaded the pub. Their mission : drink all the beer !Only one hero can stand against this menace : the Mighty Beerman ! Powered by his insatiable thirst, Earth's drunkest warrior must repel this invasion before chucking-out time lest the world be lost to the horrors of sobriety. "

Go and check this one out !

Last and no means, by least ... Why not check out some of my games ? There are a fair few on PC and a nice small collection over on Android for all to play ...

Shapes Mindorama ::

My first puzzle game of sort, loosely based on 'Tanagrams', Shapes Mindorama has 50 levels to keep you occupied for a while at least. The game also features some great Music and Sound Effects by Kent 'Powertrace' Valden'. This game also uses quite a number of variables, which drove me crazy during its design, but it all worked out alright in the end.

Dead Pixel Invaders ::

It's funny what inspires you when designing computer games, even though 'Space Invaders' is the main theme, the way in which you destroy them, is another story ! Each Dead Pixel Invader needs to be shot more than once in order for it to be totally destroyed. Again, with this game and many of others designed by me, it features great Music and Sound Effects, this time by Chris 'Infamous' Bailey. Think of it by buying or playing a piece of music with a game as well ! Each one of my games are only 0.50 GBP ( other countries currency rates will vary ). There are also, free versions to play as well, just to give you a taste of the game you choose !

If you are interested in playing of some of my games on PC, head over to my website or to the Android Play Store for a varied selection of games with audio and visual entertainment ! Enjoy !

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Taking Shape and Shooting it out !

June seems such a long time ago, it was the same month I released Shapes Mindorama on Android. Even though I got some positive feedback and a couple of sales, there was a mention that there would be more levels to follow in the game description. It maybe a long or even short time coming, but I have indeed been designing some more levels which will be included in full version. Alas, not the *lite* version. The next batch of levels will carry the same goal, but with different ways in which to achieve them.

The above screenshots give a sample of what some of the levels will look like. Moving and static barriers add more of an edge, where extra timing before each shape is placed, is required. I am hoping to experiment with physics a little, so some shapes and maybe other background objects will have a more reactive response. So far, I have designed 30 extra levels on paper and 51 to 65 on the actual game. There will only be 49 extra levels, 99 in total. In doing this, it will make the game good to play with enough variety in each level without being stretched so far. At this point, I can't see there being a sequel or more levels. However, I will being doing bug fixes as and when required. I haven't set any concrete release date for the extra levels, but I would like to see them ready by the end of the 2012.

So, what else have I been up to ? Well, I am currently baking, okay designing, a horizontal shooter. It is still in the test stages, but I have at least got a title for it and the main player sprite pixelled.
As the screenshot clearly shows, the game is indeed called, Space Capra. The name comes from a Commodore 64 design sheet that I was working on back in the 1980's. I used to draw a lot on graph paper, this was not only fun, but also gave me an idea of what sprites I wanted to design when not using the computer.
Even though some of the designs were somewhat simple, it really let my imagination flow with what types of games I wanted to play. Space Capra will be a bit of a mash up of Defender and Scramble at first glance. However, I will try and incorporate other collecting shooty type things as well.
It all looks a bit basic at the moment, but there is movement, enemies can be fired at and the background does scroll. I am going to put in a touch of parallax scrolling in as well, that should definitely make the background look more interesting.
You can design sprites in GameMaker:Studio with its quite powerful Image Editor, but I still like designing sprites in Paint Shop Pro 8. This seems quite a different way to do things, but its the way I like to do things at the moment. Each game has a canvas of sprites and tiles, which get cut out and saved as individual sprites. These then get loaded into the project, where tweaks and other effects are added as and when required.

I expect to get a bit more progress done over the coming weeks, even if the game is bolted together and needs graphical touches with some nice effects thrown in for good measure. I am thinking about lasers and homing missles at the moment !

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roswell Project : No Tears, but smearing involved !

It's funny what a few days can make, crazy ones at that ! But at least there is some good news at the end of it. For Roswell Project is pretty much complete, there might be something to tinker here and there, but it's done.

As you may also notice in the photo, what I believed at the time to be Screen Tearing at the time, is no longer present. After a bug report to YoYo Games and further investigation, an answer was later found, it was in fact a Tile issue ! Seamless Tile Scaling, which is wonderfully explained in an article by Mike Dailly.

So what did I do ? Well, I basically followed the Seamless Tile Scaling article and adjusted all of the tiles with 32 x 32 dimensions. Each tile had a two pixel smear on it with a one pixel gap between each tile in Paint Shop Pro 8. This process took me around two hours !

A horizontal and vertical offset of 3 was applied, then a horizontal and vertical seperation of 5 in GameMaker:Studio. This process was easy, as it is just setting. Now came the tedious task of re-applying all of the tiles onto the three levels maps and a couple of single screens. The levels took the longest, about two hours per level map. All placed by hand with no fancy programs ! Luckily, I had the GameMaker 8.x Roswell Project version at hand and I could visually place each tile into position. The whole process doesn't seem to be necessary for Windows, but more so with regards to this project in Android. This is what I found for this project, others may differ.

With everything in place, the game plays well and I am pretty happy with the port from Windows to Android. The actual game engine was there, which has saved a lot of time. Just leaving some subtle changes with more apparent visual ones, like the buttons and on screen controls. What I do like about GameMaker:Studio is, you can design a game / project and export it to different platforms. Roswell Project currently runs on both Android and Windows. With a couple of lines of code, you can make routines kick in when a different platform is detected. For example, the on screen controls. They don't appear in Windows, but do on Android. Genius !

Roswell Project should be available on Google Play Store for *FREE* on Android over the next couple of days, so keep an eye out for it.

This has been an interesting project and didn't really take that long to do. I can see more ports being done, but what will be next ?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Roswell Project : The Android port so far ...

The Android port of Roswell Project has started and with a few hours here and there over the last week, a fair amount of progress has been made. I ran into a few problems during an import of the GameMaker 8.1 project into GameMaker:Studio, to be honest, there is a warning that some functions may not work as expected. So there will be in most cases, a need for changes in the way the project works.

The Title Screen differs from the original version ...

The original screen size was 768x512 with the updated Android version at 800x480. In this instance, it was just a case adding a couple of extra map tiles on some screens. There is a difference with the font as well, as of GameMaker 8.x and above, bitmap fonts are no longer supported, so on all future projects, true-type fonts are the way to go. For an app or game that is considered free, most fonts don't require permission in being used. However, you may need to ask permission to use certain fonts for commercial purposes. Some font creators only require credit for use of their fonts, so it is good to research this. I purchased a 10,000 fonts pack for $19.95 which has enough to tide me over, plus they can be used for free and commerical purposes. In most cases I mention the font name and author whenever possible. The menu buttons are an addition, which makes the game a little more interactive and interesting. I really like the way they blend in and the slight drop shadow with the text, makes it stand out more.

Some ingame differences from the original version ...

The main difference with the ingame setup, is the scores, lives and collected so far positions with a difference in fonts as well. The game engine itself, hasn't changed much from the original PC version, apart from the extra variable call routines where needed.

Now, for some reason, the intermediate, title and ingame screens have tearing on a Samsung Galaxy Tab2 with 7" screen. Although, this doesn't happen when being tested on the Samsung Galaxy S2.

I am not sure if it is a hardware issue or related to GameMaker:Studio. The screens and map areas aren't overly big. Apart from this the game play pretty well, even if running it on phone or smaller device has a somewhat tiny gaming experience.

The above video gives a taster of what the Android version of Roswell Project offers with the screen tearing making an appearance as well. I expect this issue to be resolved, even if it takes a while to be done.

The credits screen now appears on the title screen, when the credits button is selected. To unselect the credits, you simply tap on the semi-transparent box. I am planning to have all the buttons with the select feature, turning black when selected and white when not.

This game and others from now on, will have high score loading and saving, plus level progress saved. So, when you leave the game, you'll be able to catch up from where you left off. Although, Roswell Project has larger levels, it is still a good option to have. Did I tell you there are mini-games included ? Yes ! Three to be exact, one for each level. Level one has Alien Breakout, level two has Dead Pixel Invaders ( where the full game originated ) and Shapes Capture ( where Shapes Mindorama was adapted from ). Why not check out the PC version of Roswell Project ?

Time to crack on with some more x and y coordinate adjustments !

Friday, September 14, 2012

I am alive and still making games !

Prior to my last post - " An App for a Candy Bar ", it hs been over a year since I last wrote a post. I don't think this was any form of abandonment, it was more of a case of other things getting in the way and time. So, I expect to write a post at least once a month, for there has been a lot of nice game making things been going on over the last 12 months.

According to my first post - " Present and Past - Let's Start with Shapes ! ", I gave an introduction on where I started with game design and what my current project was at the time. Well, Shapes Mindorama has been completed and is currently available on Android via the Google Play Store. It was released on June 5th 2012 and is available in a Lite and Paid version. I am currently working on some extra levels, which will be released soon and I expect them to be ready before the end of the year. I will keep you posted !

I am very pleased with the effort put into the game, even though the use of some variable routines drove me mad at times. For without them, like any game, nothing would work properly and would be totally boring. But this wasn't the only game I managed to complete, we also have Dead Pixel Invaders, also available in a Lite and Paid version, plus four other *FREE* games, all on Android.

The first *FREE* fully featured game I released on Android ( yep ! it's all about Android here ! ) was Office Worker. This is a port from a GameMaker 7 project which took a bit of tweaking here and there, but has turned out pretty well considering it's a simple platformer with a cool sound effects and music.

There isn't too much to worry about operationwise with the game, just 'TAP' to start and collect the objects needed for each level. You do have the option to have a choice between sound effects and music on the title screen. So, that's about it !

Now, the remaining games are just mini-games, for a few minutes fun when you have the time. Fartoids, is based on Asteroids, but with a more fun element, where the main player is propelled by natural gases produced by the body with the capability of shooting Peas at rather large Sprouts. You could almost class this as a sort of a hommage to a festive meal with masses of the lovely green vegetables or perhaps not ?

Now that you have built up the momentum from reading about Fartoids, I will move on to the next game. There was a clue in the previous sentence, a sort of link as well. For the next game is called UP and the aim of this game is to 'TAP' the retro gaming object at it's base keeping up the momentum, whilst trying to avoid it colliding with the moving bars above and below within 15 seconds.

UP was designed for the Retro Computer Museum in Coalville, Leicestershire in the United Kingdom. It was done as a fun project and I hope to expand on it in the future.

Notice the Competition Pro Joystick ? I took a photo of that and used Photoshop to cut the background. Once imported into GameMaker, I put a nice blueish glow around it. All of the retro gaming objects have this effect. It all makes into a good, simple little game !

We now Bump into the last, but not last really. Yes ! Another tenious link to the following game, again another game for a spare moment, but you have 60 seconds in this one, more of a survival mission in this instance.

The aim of the game here, is to collect the orange and lemon orbs without colliding with the rotating bombs that seem to just float around in space. Bump was designed for Retrovision in Oxford, United Kingdom and just like UP for the Retro Computer Museum, it was done for fun and a dedication more really to the fun times and company that is shared with the guys that run hosted events.

The game is quite simple to control, just move the green coloured face of 'Markie', a known legend of Retrovision to collect the orbs. Those 60 seconds seem like an eternity whilst playing and I can only seem to last with 10 seconds to spare before one of those blasted bombs get me.

As you can see, I have been pretty much active, even though the blog has shown nothing but silence over the past 12 months. Apart, from being a little bit busy, a few personal things have happened to me, as in, the return of the darkness, not so much a game, but depression. I am not ashamed to mention this, as it affects many people and in different ways. However, a few months ago, I was also diagnosed with an under-active Thyroid and borderline Type 2 Diabetes. This is a bit of a big hit really, at times it has been a bit too much to take in. But with help, advice, medication and some dietry changes, I expect myself to maintain a normal standard of life. Well, as normal as you can get.

So, we move on and what have I got planned next ? I would like to do a couple of ports to Android of a couple of my PC games, Roswell Project and possibly Phantom Millennium ? Maybe a few more, I think a reworking of Coin Mania Remix would work well, but we'll have to see if time permits. There is a secret remake I am hoping to do and a newer project, but I'll keep it under my hat for the time being. You will all find out soon !

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An App for a Candy Bar !

The best things in life are *FREE* ! It is always nice to get something for nothing every now and again, it perks you up and makes you feel good all over. However, it's also nice to buy things as well, whether they be expensive or affordable. Suiting each to persons own budget and taste of course.
So, would you buy an App or Game for a Mobile device or a Candy Bar ( Mmm ... Chocolate ) ? Good question eh ? On both the Apple and Android mobile platforms there are simply thousands, upon thousands of Apps available to download and buy, at any time of the day, all across the world. We are simply spoilt for choice with genres, for both Apps and Games. Prices start from *FREE* up to one of the most expensive ones that I have seen on the Apple App Store, the TomTom Europe Sat Nav priced at £79.99 for the iPad. In all fairness, you are paying for a well known product, that needed a lot of research and development which isn't too disimilar to the original hardware that you might have in your car. But what's stopping you using Google Maps for example ? Although the feel isn't the same, the practicality is, plus it is *FREE* ! We use and buy what Apps we want, regardless of the price.

At this point I would like to bring up the name, 'Angry Birds' by Rovio. This is a massively popular game with all the franchise that comes with it. Even if you are simply spitting feathers and screaming obscenities out loud, whilst trying to hold back the emotional tears of jealousy and perhaps a bit of anger or maybe perhaps not ? It has been a lucky break for Rovio really and I can't believe how far the game has come. Although, it does have a rather nice polished look and feel, it has marvelled in physics, a sure winner. The game and all of its series, is available on almost every platform, even this bizarre attempt on the Sega Genesis, as demonstrated via YouTube.

So, where are we at now ? Why do we download *FREE* games ? Because we want to of course, its a matter of choice and personal preference. But we also, do, buy Apps and we are spoilt for choice, in fact there is a saturation of choice. The developers of this gaming world are in and do face a lot of competition. Over 25 years ago, during the 8-bit gaming years, even then, there were games and prices for every budget between £1.99-£14.99 as I recall, were games that I would buy and would mostly be in this price range. The gameplay did run from good to bad, on certain games, regardless of the price.

I have been recently fortunate enough to be able to produce games for mobile devices, more so on the Android platform using GameMaker:Studio by YoYo Games. This has been a good experience with regards to creating and submitting them to Google Play Store and see how they fair amongst thousands of other Apps and games available. Without a lot of advertising, it has been rather quiet or a little static. Is it the style and look of each game, I first thought ? Did I set the price for each game adequately or are they just not good enough ? What I have noticed is, all the *FREE* games are being downloaded, if not in massive amounts. The current two paid for games are still, still as in, not moving or shifting much. I wonder if the same were to happen on the Apple platform ? I do think however, that additional advertising and more word of mouth may inject some form of interest to most.

I do believe that in playing games for over 25 years, gameplay is one of the most important factors, regardless of its looks or price. Every game has a set look or style, you could have an expensive game that cost hundreds of thousands to produce with high end graphics, only to fall flat with poor gameplay. Then you might have a lower end budget game, that simply wins on gameplay alone.

All of this leads us up to independent developers, who deserve more credit. The competition can be quite fierce out there. The quantity and quality are equaled and by far better in most respects to the big gun software developers. Just because you choose or are an 'indie', it doesn't mean you are or will produce inferior or poor quality games.

It isn't that much of a difficult choice between an App or a Candy Bar, you maybe hungry, the price is near enough the same and for 50 pence, 50 cents or maybe 99. You are contributing towards the support of current and the future production of Apps and games. Free is good, but without adverts to pay the way or financial support, there may well be a decline in what we love most ... games !