Archive for September, 2009
Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
Episode 29 drops as we scramble to keep up! We’ll be on top of it soon, promise. This week: Half Life 2 noises, Discipline and all manner of other nonsense!
Check out links from the show on our official Google Reader page.
Monday, September 28th, 2009
I am, once again, back in the UK. Yes I know you knew that already, but it seems a pertinent way to start this post anyway. I appear (touch wood) to have escaped jetlag in this direction for only the second time in my twelve visits to America. The first was my legendary “gap year lite” with Ollie Norman-Longstaff in 2001 when we got drunk on the plane, passed out on the plane, woke up for landing and arrived back in dsl in the middle of the tennis tournament, got wasted again (obviously), and then did the same kind of thing for three days in a row. This time… well, it didn’t require as many chemicals. Maybe it’s age. What a self-indulgent paragraph this has been.
So, I ended up doing even less productive coding while on holiday than I had planned. I kept up doing design on our contract TV stuff and helping Paul keep the graphics pipeline moving, but did very little Synapse coding myself. In fact, I hardly played Synapse – and spent quite a lot of time analysing why.
As I’ve said before, Synapse is above all else a game designed for me. I believe that I am approximately 10,000 times better at deciding what I like than what other people will like. I also believe that I am fussy enough and ADD enough that if I make a game I really truly love then a lot of other people will think it’s pretty awesome too. That’s my approach, and I think it’s working well so far. It’s the number one lesson I learnt from Determinance – as an indie, you should be making your ideal game, not your idea of what others’ is.
So anyway. Why wasn’t I playing Synapse? The answer, I think, is that I was in uber-relaxation mode and SECURE isn’t all that relaxing to play. It requires you to put a massive amount of concentration and thought into turn 1, and it requires an intense attention-to-detail throughout. Now those things are very much part of Synapse, and symptoms of some of the things which make Synapse good. And SECURE is an excellent game mode I think. But for me, I need another game mode which is just not quite as mentally challenging at all points to play. EXTERMINATION, by the way, I view as a pretty rough mode and while fun for a while doesn’t really stand up to long-term play.
I’m not going to go into further detail now, but this week I’m trying to finalise another game mode, called DISPUTED. DISPUTED will debut in the next update which I plan to have out on Friday (no promises, but I hope so). When you guys see the rules of this new mode, I’d expect you to see where I’m coming from with all this stuff. I’d be very interested to hear what you guys think about the current game modes too.
The next update will also have the long-talked about in-game IRC and system tray notifications and the current graphics snapshot, which is quite a lot better than the old beta but still has a long way to go.
Monday, September 28th, 2009
I have a feeling that in the next few months we’re going to get a lot of articles on the internet “defending” luck in games, as if the received knowledge is that it is always a bad thing. I don’t have time to really comment on this in full, but I will say the following: the “luck/skill balance” of a game is one of if not the most important aspect of a game’s design, and one that game designers have known about and been playing with for millenia. It really is as fundamental as the choice of which colours to use in a painting.
Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Lighting has been integrated, finally – it’s still in a very raw form but it’s making a big difference already…
I’m going to make our artists and coders cry with all the things I want to do involving dynamic lighting, but that’s totally my job.
One of the issues we’re having at the moment is how to create that “other levels UNDERNEATH the current level” background effect without having a load of distracting geometry that irritates the player. Personally, I think the background just needs to be less defined – darker, blurrier, weirder shapes – going to be trying out some things along those lines soon.
Glow around the players is looking decent but also needs work – really want to get that glowy, cyberpunky effect all over.
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is adding some additional player feedback stuff. When you lose a unit or perform a particularly good kill, something should definitely happen. I don’t mean splashing COMBO BREAKER!!!! over the entire screen, but something big and visceral. Gore and decent explosions (coming soon) will really help with this, but I’m wondering if we need something more…I’d love a 3D bullet time thing when someone gets sniped, for example…that will definitely make our artists cry…
Another thing we’ve been talking about it adding a screen at the start of a match which clearly shows your “hand” vs. your opponent’s. For those that don’t know, in the main game mode (Secure) you’re dealt a random squad of troops at the start, then have to bet on the amount of territory you can hold with them. Your hand is incredibly important, so a way of rendering this in a cool manner will definitely create some tension at the start of a level.
Here’s a bad screen grab of our flyer for the Gamecity event – it’s the first time we’ve ever had PRINTED promotional material done for a game, and I hope it’ll have a decent impact. 5000 of these things will be going out around the festival and we will see the results! I really want a lot of people to turn up at the tent and try the game out, even if it’s very briefly…we’ll see. Like all our marketing efforts, I’m going to track it and if it works, repeat it. You’ve got to try these things!
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…more LIFE:
I promised you more of Official Mode 7 Dog Jasper, and here he is taking a turn to prepare his appalling Laser Strike which can cut through any reinforced materials.
I set him on Advanced Level In-House Torque Engine Code Manipulator Thom Shutt but this had little effect, as Thom Shutt is harder than most reinforced materials.
I have always wanted a first-person banana game. You show a banana to various things and watch the results. At a funeral, or engaging in a difficult conversation about rent? Just press B to pull out your banana with little or no provocation. The Social Awkwardness Sim is a much under-represented genre.
I like living in the country. This is all.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Episode 28 really likes you and is going to let you finish, but Episode 28 is the greatest episode of all time.
This week, Ian is in an American toilet, and we discuss video game tropes, Kurt Cobain and all of the rest of the week’s most stimulating under-the-radar gaming news.
Check out links from the show on our official Google Reader page.
Monday, September 21st, 2009
The eye of the Indie Game Man beholds the universe and declares that it is “acceptable in its current form”.
This thing exists in Leamington Spa. In my mind it is labeled as “sub-Mobius Public Sculpture”.
At the weekend, I went back to my parents’ to remove some things from their house that I’m storing there. They’re having my childhood bedroom redecorated. This is the view I use to have when writing music there – doesn’t look like much but it helped write some good tunes!
Won’t make sense if you’re not a muso, but finding a functional Yamaha DX100 in a bunch of stuff is an epic win. Same sound chip as the Megadrive – there, games-related!
Ditto MicroKorg. I once heard Calvin Harris slagging off this keyboard = +10 to hatred of Calvin Harris.
I found some great games as well, hiding in the huge piles of terror…
I also found this awesome Guidebook to the land of the Green Isles from King’s Quest Six…
Everyone always slates the King’s Quest games – I loved them. My whole family used to play them and collaborate on solving the puzzles – it was fantastic. Proper family gaming, none of your Wii Cycling, Nintendo Sports Joust Horsey Match etc. One of the reasons I wanted to be involved with making games was the great feeling of possibility they generated in me as a kid.
I had to throw out this huge spaghetti ball because I didn’t have time to separate it all out:
Yes, I salvaged the Megadrive joypad though, don’t worry.
Weird to see that room nearly empty now:
I saw this in Oxford – possibly my favourite bit of vandalism to date:
Finally, I came into the office today and saw official Mode 7 Dog Jasper working hard as usual…
Sunday, September 20th, 2009
Hey guys. We apologies for Village this week – we recorded it almost a week ago but there was some technical problem at Paul’s end and we won’t be able to get it up until tuesday. It will, though, have better sound quality this time. We promise.
My holiday is coming to an end, and I’ll be back to fully functioning working-ness a week on Monday. In the next few days I’m going to try and mock up this other game mode I’ve been brewing while I’ve been here. I’m sorry the update’s been so long coming, but there’s going to be some pretty cool new content in there and I think you guys will be pleased.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Our friends over at Spong have given me a regular soapbox to talk about making Synapse. It’s called Welcome To Development Hell. Enjoy.