Game DevelopmentPosted by Anders Højsted Fri, January 07, 2011 10:19
Hi, it's been two months since my last update.
The time hasn't been uneventfull, but very few of the things happening have been related to gamedevelopement, so I haven't really had anything to write about in here.
I 've been working for a while as a sysadm and haven't had time to develop on my game. I also took a week-long course about the Unity-editor; I'm considering using it for the next game.
Right now I'm (co-)arranging the Nordic Game Jam 2011 at the end of the month. Greg Costikyan is coming to do the keynote and I'm doing all the arrangements regarding this. If you can make it to the NGJ, you should. It's crazy and amazing mad fun (but in a good way).
On top of this it's election year in Denmark and I'm politically active in an attempt to get a new goverment. We still have "our" Bush-administration.
Since last I've made a few levels for the game, added some interaction (new challenges) and made a small demo. I need to focus on the gameplay-experience of the game and do content that will go into the final game. My original idea was to call the game aMAZEd, as it is a maze game, but this title is already taken for an Android-game, so it would confuse things somewhat. I don't plan to release it on Android, so I'll have a talk with the guy making the game to hear if he's ok with me using the title for a PC game.
So for now the title is Amazing (which is very pretentious; I like that); the demo is here: Amazing Demo. This is the alpha of the demo, so a lot of stuff is missing. There's no sound, the levels aren't balanced and the basic idea is just to make a presentation of what is going on. It's still a work-in-progress; I hope someone will give me feedback on it.
The design philosophy behind it is to take the ideas from my thesis about challenges, tools & flow, create the simplest interaction possible and se if the theories are adequate enough to make a good game.
The conclusion is so far that they aren't. I've learned the following:
Before a person can achieve flow during an activity, he needs a motivation to begin the activity and needs to learn how to master the activity before the difficulty can increase and he can achive flow. So the game needs to entice the player to play.
Disclaimer: I still have to figure out how to do this for the game.
Secondly, the game needs to be varied. Even if the player achieves flow, he will still get accostumed to the interaction and it will then get boring if the only change in the game is that difficulty increases. So the interaction in the game must be varied. I don't think the variation in leveldesign is sufficient. Every time the interaction changes, the players skill starts from (close to) beginner's level and the difficulty must be "reset" to adjust for this. Else the player will fail repeatedly, become frustrated and quit the game.
Disclaimer: the levels in the demo aren't balanced based on the player's progression in skill-level, so some of them will be insanely hard. Press Enter in the game to skip a level.
The game is controlled with the directional keys and my dad had a really hard time playing it when playtested the game during Christmass. I don't want to change this for this game, but are looking into mouse-controls for the next game (just need to finish & release this game before I do the next). Mousecontrol also translates easier into touch-screen platforms (Ipad, Iphone, Android) and motion-controllers (Wii, Sony Move, Kinect).
Another design philosophy is to follow the scandinavian design tradition of streamlining. Only things that are essential for the game should be in it. No unnessary filling, - whether it's levels, interaction, graphics or audio. This is actually harder then it looks; I'm constantly tempted to put stuff in that isn't necessary, but that will add a bit glitz to it. But I must to keep it clean.
Gamedevelopement continues and I'll try to keep you posted on a regular basis.
Game DesignPosted by Anders Højsted Sun, October 24, 2010 14:12
Isn't it beautiful?
Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Wed, October 06, 2010 12:00
As usual it's been too long since the last update.
writing a post about all the things that has been happening and what
I'm been thinking about (lotsa thinking going on), but the text bloated and
ended up covering a lot of diverse perspectives about what I want to do, so I won't
post it yet. I need to finish it and then slice it up
thematically for several blogposts.
So this is "just" an update.
People have been discussing TryFail and some of them had some
excellent feedback. As I wrote in an earlier post, I won't give an authoritative interpretation of the game, -
although I'll give a clue: the game is very much based on atheist
existentialism (in particular Jean Paul Sartre).
In this discussion at the danish game development forum Spiludvikling the user Pelding (I have no idea about his real identity) pointed out
that existentialism assumes you are forced to choose; you can not
choose not to choose, - not choosing is also a choice. In TryFail
not doing anything
meant that nothing happened; this is wrong.
So I've made a new version. In the new version of the game not choosing - not doing anything – also have consequences ;) ain't life a bitch.This version has been submitted to
the Austin SXSW and you can download a version of it here (or with the link in the
Indiecade respectfully declined my submission and encouraged me to
submit later works. We'll see about that ;)...
The Dutch Game Awards only accepted submissions from gamedevelopers
from countries that have accepted the Euro as currency. Denmark is an
EU-member, but we haven't accepted the Euro, so they wouldn't accept
my submission. I mailed a bit back'n'forth with them and they'll
probably expand the category to all of the EU next year (or maybe –
I hope – the whole world :) ). Holland is an cool country and I'll
love to participate; it would be a great excuse for going there.
I hope to submit the game to the Independent Games Festival, but the entry fee is $95 and money are insanely tight. The deadline is oktober 18, so I won't get any money before then. I'll probably have to sell some of my RPG-/philosophy-books; who needs those anyway?
Alternatively, if any of you feel like sponsoring my IGF-entry, don't be shy. I promise to mention you in my acceptance speech :)
(It's not like I expect anything to come from submitting to the IGF, - but the loss of money makes it real and I need to keep it real to myself).
More info will follow shortly about my thoughts and plans, - watch
this space :)
Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Tue, August 17, 2010 17:28
I did - not surprisingly - not win the Freeplay Award. It went to "Last Hope" from the Brazilian team Yellow Jam.
You can download Last Hope here: Last Hope
Congratulations, fellas :)
My plan is now to make some adjustments to Try/Fail and submit it to the Dutch Game Awards & Independent Games Festival.
I've had around 730 downloads of the game; many of the hits came from this site Railgun that mentioned that I was nominated for the Freeplay Award. They did this the day after I sent out danish press-releases about the game. I just didn't send any to them. Go figure. Their review was quickly copied to other pages; - they seem to be feeding of each others news.
This was a good example of how important marketing is, - even for free indie-games. People need to be made aware of what you are doing.
People have played the game and given extensive feedback. A whole discussion erupted at the danish game-development-community-site Spiludvikling where people leveled some very relevant critism towards the game. I have to take that into account for the IGF-build.
I primarily submit the game to these festivals to prove a point to myself, - part of which is that I have to do it 110%. If I don't take my art seriously, how can I expect other to?
Meanwhile - while I labor on - try this little demo that I made with some of the TryFail-assets:
Money is tight, so I've been thinking about making a small very commercial game (nothing artsy here) to make ends meet. They're slightly too far away from each other right now (starving artist and all, - you fill in the blanks).
Also, if you want me to make a unique level for the maze, based on your specifications and with your choice of artwork, sounds etc., - let me know and we'll figure out a price.
You would have your own personal game then :)
Be seeing ya,
Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Fri, July 30, 2010 14:01
I gives me great pleasure to finally release my game TryFail
to the waiting public.
It's already been nominated to Freeplay Independent Games Festival's award for Best International Game - Yay!
The game has been through a series of test and should now be as bugfree as possible. However, understanding is not guaranteed. Try it out for yourself and see what if you can make sense of it.
TryFail Download (<- click here)
I submitted the game to Indiecade 23/6-2010. If you want to see what I submitted and see how that game developed from there, you can download the Indiecade submission here:
Tryfail Indiecade Submission
If you want to try the build submitted to Freeplay Independent Games Festival in Melbourne, Australia, you can download it here:
TryFail Freeplay Submission
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment in here or mail me.
I'd like to thanks some people for helping me with the making of the game:
First, foremost and above all, my girlfriend Kremena Dimitrova for her support, patience and love far beyond the call of duty. Love'ya, babe :)
My family, - for probably not really understanding me, but still loving & supporting me none the less.
The voice actors :
Nikolaos Vaporakis for his "Heureka". Nikolaos co-owns restaurant Kreta in Copenhagen where I went to find a greek voice-actor.
Ellen-Sofia Løventoft-Jessen for the baby-laughter (generously recruited & tickled by her dad, Jonas Løventoft-Jessen)
The record company Naxos for giving me the rights to the non-commercial use of Capella Istropolitana's
(directed by Adrian Leaper) performance of Sibelius "Andanto Festivo". Special thank to the danish CEO of the Naxos Jørgen, whom I know really pushed for this to happen (and used part of his summer-vacation for it).
Testers - thanks, friends :): Jonas Løventoft-Jessen, Kristian Hedeholm, Jonathan Osborne, Christina Stind Rosendahl, Douglas Wilson, Patrick Jarnfeldt, Dajana Dimovska, Lau Korsgaard, Jeppe Norsker, Frederik Hermund, Martin Corinth, Jesper Nielsen, Rudy Dordonne, Martin Knudsen, Kim Fenger, Morten Lund, Jonas Raagard, Thomas Duus Henriksen & Thomas Vigild.
Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Mon, July 19, 2010 13:39
So TryFail is basically done. I've made a build for betatesting and sent it out to a select group of testers (those that volunteered). Not all of them have gotten back to me, but I can already draw a conclusion based on their responses.
People tend to get the basic theme and understand the metaphor in the interaction. There's a sound that makes them misunderstand a bit of it, but not in a crucial way; however, it needs to be fixed.
So the immediate message and metaphor is clear.
However, almost all of them didn't get the second level of understanding, which should come when you reflect about the game (and these are very, very bright people).
So the questions is how direct I can make the message? and how?
I don't think I'll make it more direct; TryFail is not a commercial game and I'm trying to see if I can prompt people to analyze & reflect more about games, - less action, more reflection. If we can make people approach games analytically as they do with movies & books, we'll create the audience for conceptually challenging and metaphorically games.
Compare this piece on Josef Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" from Wikipedia to a normal (or even sophisticated) game review:
The opening sentence of the novella is famous in English:
"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous insect."
"Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt."
Kafka's sentences often deliver an unexpected impact just before the full stop— that being the finalizing meaning and focus. This is achieved due to the construction of sentences in German that require that the participle be positioned at the end of the sentence; in the above sentence, the equivalent of 'changed' is the final word, 'verwandelt'. Such constructions are not replicable in English, so it is up to the translator to provide the reader with the same effect found in the original text.
English translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as "insect", but this is not strictly accurate. In Middle German, Ungeziefer literally means "unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice" and is sometimes used colloquially to mean "bug" – a very general term, unlike the scientific sounding "insect"
(continued at wikipedia - se under "Lost In Translation")
Nobody analyzes games to this level, - not even to themselves. Nobody expects to have to analyze games this deeply and most games (even indiegames) aren't designed to be analyzed like this.
We need to make our audience understand that they are expected - required even - to make this kind of analysis on artgames; to go beyond the given in a game and work with the metaphors on all levels of the game, - rules, aesthetics, interaction, progression, everything. Or else games as an artform won't be able to go beyond the immediate perception of the game.
(In fact, the very defining difference between artgames and regular/indie games could very well be that they require this type & level of interpretation).
Jason Rohrer's Passage is a extremely nice game with a lot of metaphors in it. When it came out, a lot of people enjoyed it, promoted it and discussed it. In the end, Jason posted an analysis of the game where he described his intended interpretation of the game, - down to each feature, trade-off and graphic.
Regardless of Jason's motives for this analysis, this analysis is now the authoritative interpretation of the game. No matter how you perceive Passage, if you differ from this, you will be wrong. Anyone will be able to say "That's not how it's supposed to be, - according to the creator Jason Rohrer it's...".
Imagine if Kafka & Nietzsche had done something like that; how much intellectual inspiration we would have lost from their works; all the many interpretations that never would have happened...
I don't want this to be perceived as a critique of Jason or what he is doing in general; - he's clearly a talented, inspired and ambitious auteur and we need a lot more of those. We need games made by inspired individuals with a vision; we need inspired individuals with a vision.
Jason probably made the analysis because he was tired of answering questions about the game or because he wanted people to get the full picture and all the details. He's very adamant about people making up their own mind before they read his analysis. However, after they've read it, their own interpretation will be inaccurate (assuming that it differs from Jason's).
The point that I'm trying to get across is that I don't think it's constructive to give an authoritative interpretation to the players, - even if they want it. Not even the indie-game-audience are used to games that require this level of interpretation, so they ask for a manual.
For TryFail, they'll have to contend with a replay and a discussion.
BTW: I submitted TryFail to the Freeplay Independent Games Festival in Melbourne, Australia. Let's see what happens (probably nothing, - but you never know).
Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Wed, June 23, 2010 12:49
I was at a Nordic Game Jam 2011-upstart meeting @ IGDA Denmark @ Spilhuset in Copenhagen Friday. Nordic Game Jam are continually increasing and we've started very early with the planning to make sure that everything is under control and no-one is going to die from stress from making the event.
We meet at Spilhuset because IGDA.dk vicechairman Dajana Dimovska is CEO in Copenhagen Game Productions in there. They were planning to do an all-night, all-weekend crunch to get two of their games ready for Indiecade in the USA. Indiecade is an (fairly succesfull) attempt at creating a Sundance-festival for independently produced computergames.
I'm almost done with TryFail, so I figured I submit a "work-in-progress" demo to Indiecade, - just to see what they would think of it.
I had 4 days to finish the demo and ran into some issues.
I sent a version to a select few testers; they reported back that the game wouldn't run on win7. I've been making the game with Gamemaker 7.0, which can't deploy to any version later then Win XP. Luckily the assets for the game could easily be moved to Gamemaker 8, so I just had to buy a new version of Gamemaker to make the build. I was seriously happy about how easy the transition went; it's never a good idea to change developement tools in the middle of process and even worse to do it right before a deadline.
Secondly, the graphics for the avatar was kindda hard to comprehend. The avatar is 25x25 pixels and I had to make comprehendable, lifelike graphics for this size. In the Indiecade version they look like this:
It's very hard to make out what they are. So for the final release I'll have to remake them. Gamemaker also adjust them when they are imported into the game, which makes it even harder to comprehend what they are.
Here's the graphics in size that I originally made them in:
Now this makes it a lot easier to see what they are.
The graphics was made with G.I.M.P 2.6. It's the GNU Image Manipulation Program; you can download it for free here. I'm not religious about open-source software vs. proprietary software, but I have a great deal of respect for highly educated, highly skilled developers who use their free time to create something free for the benefit of everybody. And G.I.M.P. suits my needs fine so far.
I don't really have any expectations about TryFail's performance at Indiecade; it really requires the player to be a lot more contemplative about the game then usual and this isn't something normally expected for computergames. The players most likely won't do what they "required" to do because it's an abnormal behaviour with regards to games.
Normally I wouldn't expect abnormal behaviour from my players, but this is a non-commercial art game, so I'm allowed to challenge the players a bit. They'll be fine.
We'll see what happens.
Try/FailPosted by Anders Højsted Tue, June 08, 2010 16:03
Try/Fail is (slowly) coming along. Life has a really nasty habit of getting in the way.
It's a very different game then any other I have encountered and I have regular doubts about whether people will understand it and whether they'll enjoy it. The idea behind the game is very subtle and I don't want to explain it to the players. I want people to experience the game and interpret it themselves. I know it's a tall order in this modern age of Instant Gratification(tm), but I hope maybe that I can advance games a little bit by doing it.
However, I expect the game to tank instantly and be forgotten forever. This way I won't be disapointed when it does, - and besides how many people are interested in philosophical, existentialist games?
(My bizdev friends would probably anwer: none or else someone would already be making them. They may have a point ).
However, development continues. A lot my focus recently have been on the audio-side of the game. I've adopted the ethos of doing everything myself, so I borrowed an audio recorder from my friend Nevin Eronde from Nevinstudio.com.
Nevin is active in the danish IGDA-chapter where she runs the Audio Special Interest Group and have done audio design on a lot of different games on a lot of different platforms. We worked together on the game TogetherFornever (halfway down) at the Nordic Game Jam 2009. I can't recommend her highly enough; - feel free to approach her with all your freelance audio design-jobs.
The audio recorder was a Sony PCMD50 Portable Linear PCM Recorder (You can read more about here).
I've been used to recording audio on an mp3-player, a mobile phone or with a microphone plugged into a laptop. The results have been...varied.
So the recorder completely blew my mind. First of, you can set it so it's very, very sensitive, - you can literally hear people talk in the room next to you (if the door is open, not through the wall). The sensitivity is a blessing and a curse as it will pick up anything in the area. However, you can turn down the recording volume to avoid the background noise. You can plug in a headset so you can hear exactly how the recording sounds and you can set the playback volume independently of the recording volume. The recorder is a harddisk recorder, so you can instantly replay the recording to hear it. Sweeeeet! It plugs straight into a standart USB and you can browse it as an external harddisk; it puts the audio-files in folders named after the date you made the recording.
(If I continue making my own games, I need to get one of these).
After the recording I mixed, cut and edited the audio in Audacity to get the sounds that I wanted. They're not perfect, but I'm satisfied(ish).
I'll write more about the different audio in the game and how I recorded them. Right now, I'll just present two of them to you. Can you make out what they are?
More will come :)