— cjohnson games

Expand at Sense of Wonder Night

sown_imgThe presenters for Sense of Wonder Night(SOWN) have been announced and Expand was selected to be shown. SOWN is an event at the Tokyo Game Show where roughly ten games that delight, amaze and give people a sense of wonder are presented to an audience of around three hundred people. Everyone in the audience has a shaker that they use when feeling a sense of wonder and at the end of all the presenters several awards are given out. You can see the full line up of games here.

In addition to presenting at Sense of Wonder we’ll also be exhibiting the game for both the business and public days of the Tokyo Game Show. We’ll be in the indie games area across from the lounge.

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The trip to Japan is mostly for oriented around the game but we’ve also set aside some time for sight seeing and travel. Personally I’m keen to eat as much of the amazing Japanese food as possible. It should be a great trip. I’ll do a post about it once we’ve returned to Australia.

Expand in PAX Australia Indie Showcase and at Bit Bash

Last Friday PAX Australia announced their selection for the Australian Indie Showcase(AIS), a line up of six games that “highlight the best of the Australian and New Zealand Indie scene”. We’re very fortunate in that Expand was selected to be apart of the showcase and that it was recognised along with a selection of really interesting and creative games. Out of all the games I’ve only had the chance to briefly play Screen Cheat at AVCon. It’s a great game that is really cemeted by a fantastic concept. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to play the other games. As part of the AIS selection we’ll be provided with a booth to show Expand at PAX Australia. So if you’re intending on going to PAX then consider dropping by, we’ll be there everyday from opening to close.

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Chris and I will also be flying out to a Melbourne a few days before PAX to attend Game Connect Asia Pacific(GCAP), an industry oriented games conference. The lineup of speakers looks to be fantastic with keynote speakers Siobhan Reddy the Studio Direction at Media Molecule, Barry Meade the Co-Founder at Fireproof Studios and the lovely Rami Ismail the business guy at Vlambeer. There’s also a selection of great interenational guests and there will be an awards ceremony to recognise individual developer and Australian Studios.

They’ve just started rolling out the scheduled sessions for GCAP. Here are some of the sessions that are taking my fancy.

Expand also manage to slip into the games selection for Bit Bash, an interactive arts festival in Chicago. It’s being held at Threadless on September 6th. I really love the selection of games they’ve chosen. Hopefully people have fun with Expand. Unfortunately we won’t be able to make it down.

Adelaide Game Jam 3 – Reaction

Not last weekend but the weekend before was the Adelaide Game Jam 3 held by Jamalaide. Leading up to the weekend I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend. I had been sick that week and my partner was just arriving back from trip on the Friday. Luckily though things pulled through. I was still feeling a bit sick but marched on and my partner was flexible because she’s just awesome like that. The jam started on the Saturday morning with the announcement of the theme ‘Reaction’ and ended on the Sunday afternoon(32 hours later).

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I didn’t really go into the jam with any intentions or plans. I just brought my laptop along with a few basic tools installed(HaxePunk, Love2D, sfxr, Audacity, Adobe Fireworks). The turnout for the jam was fantastic with around 40 people present making games. To my knowledge this is the largest turnout for a game jam in Adelaide. Due to the large turnout I decided to work with whoever was present or nearby at the time. When entering the venue I met Anton who was a first time jammer. Anton and I sat at the same table and so I figured that we might as well work together. To my surprise he had been writing his own NES games in assembly and is quite a talented pixel artist.

The theme for the jam, Reaction was quite broad and so we started off by thinking of ways to constrain the theme into an interesting domain. Our first idea was to have a game in which the screen was split into two and any action performed on one screen would have a reaction on the other. Our first solid idea was to create a top down, multiplayer shooter in which bullets would fire from one screen but when they hit a wall they would explode on the other screen. On top of that enemy movement on one screen would be influenced by the player’s movement on the other screen. The idea seemed okay and with limited time we decided to hop to it.

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Towards the end of the Saturday night, we were feeling that the concept wasn’t quite working for us. It was probably a mistake to adopt the first idea that had come to mind. So instead we opted to rethink our idea and create something else that could leverage the work we had already done. I spent most of the Saturday night thinking of new ideas while Anton continued to pump out awesome art. My mind kept going back to how splitting the screen view could lead to interesting mechanics. Before going to sleep for the night a new idea had popped up. What if we continued to make a top down shooter but this time split the screen into four quadrants with the view in the first and forth quadrant and the second and third quadrant being the same. Then what would happen if the bullets could cross the line that separated each of the views. This idea didn’t use the original reaction theme all that well but it was also quite interesting and with less than 18 hours to go we decided to switch.

Sunday was spent in much of a rush as we tried to knock out as much of the game as possible. Only within the last hour we had all of the basics of the game working, a title and game over screen, full game loop with win conditions, graphics, music and sound effects. It actually came together quite well considering how much we had to do. The final jam game was quite solid and highlighted our idea reasonably well. We did however modify the win condition by introducing an orb in which player’s would have to fire into a hole. Player’s could then interfere with each other by firing bullets over to knock the opponent’s orb into water.

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After the jam everyone played each others games. There must have been around 14 games made across the weekend with most people working in small groups of 2 – 3. The overall quality of games was fantastic. Here are the some of the other ideas that people came up with.

  • A multiplayer, arena shooter in which there is a strong recoil on the guns. Players had to weigh up the strength of their shot against the knock back from the gun.
  • A platforming game in which each of the platforms would respond differently when jumped on.
  • A three player, bumper racing game in which you must steer either an ambulance, cop car or police bike to different goals.
  • A narrative game in which you must push the story forward by choosing the player’s next action within a limited time.

After the jam Anton and I decided to tweak the game a bit. Anton updated some of the graphics making the player’s direction clearer, updating the menu graphics and tweaking the terrain tileset. I added controller support, tweaked the movement physics and simplified the existing level. On play testing after the jam we realised that people weren’t making the most of the bullet wrapping mechanic. Our idea was that a player could use one of the duplicated views to line up shots from any direction. However what ended up happening was that players would only focus on the one view. There was simply too much information present on the screen to flip between the two views and focus on lining up shots. We decided to simplify the game and have four players each on their own quadrant of the screen, all trying to fire their orb into a goal.

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Currently you can download the jam version of the game, the final version of the game and the source code. The jam version used the Flash target of Haxepunk which doesn’t support controllers. The final version of the game used the Windows target which does support controllers but uses software rendering which can be slow. Unfortunately I ran into a whole bunch of features in Haxepunk that were incomplete, not supported on certain targets or were just broken. The flash target, as expected was quite good but the other windows target really limit wasn’t quite there. As a framework and like FlashPunk it’s great but it just doesn’t deliver on the promise, at least not quite yet.

Overall I really enjoyed this game jam. There were lot’s of new faces and all the games produced were really great. Working with Anton was fantastic and we’re actually going to work on a small side project together soon. Jamalaide are in the process of adding all of the games to their website. Go and have a peak!

Adelaide Games Playtesting Event for August

This is just a short post to say that there will be another games playtesting event at CDW Studios on Sunday 24th August from 2pm to 4pm. The way it works is pretty simple. Developers bring along their games, everyone at the event can go play/test whatever games they like and provide feedback in person or anonymously. You don’t have to be showing a game to come along.

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All of the details have been posted on the Facebook event page.

Screenshot from Quadrilateral Cowboy by Blendo Games.

Indie Games Room 2014

It’s been about three weeks since the Indie Games Room(IGR) at AVCon and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how everything went. This year I involved with AVCon in several different capacities. I was showing Expand within IGR as an exhibitor, I was a panelist for a panel called Getting Started Making Games on the Sunday and I was the Coordination Assistant for IGR. I’ll briefly touch on how things went in each of these different areas.

In case you missed IGR here is a timelapse video we did across the weekend. It starts from early on Saturday and runs until pack-up on Sunday. It gives you an idea of the number of people that moved through the room.

So this was the first time we’ve shown Expand publicly in 2 years. At this point in development we are mostly concentrating on level creation as most features are nailed down. We went into AVCon looking for confirmation that people understood the direction we were taking and would enjoy the game. The response to the game was fantastic and we’re definitely feeling confident going forward. There were only two minor bugs that reared their head. The first of which was a game breaking bug that occurred in one area of the game, we easily resolved it for the show by turning one checkpoint off. The other bug was extremely minor. Both issues have now been properly resolved which is great.

We were also fortunate to receive press from several different websites. The game was mentioned on games.on.net with James O’Connor lavishing high praise on the game.

Expand is fiendish and clever, but what really stands out about it is how curiously emotional the experience is. It’s definitely one of the most interesting games being developed in Australia right now.

We also did interviews with The Lead and Aussie Game Geek which was cool.

Photo by Anne Vu - https://secure.flickr.com/photos/annedr0id/
Photo by Anne Vu

On the Sunday of AVCon I was on a panel called Getting Started Making Games with Jake Moore. The panel went quite well with somewhere around 70 people showing up. We spoke for about half an hour and then opened the floor up to questions. Afterwards, we drummed up some conversation with several people from the audience. I challenged them to make a game within a month and then let us know how they go. We posted a series of resources on the Indie Games Room website that you can checkout if interested.

From the perspective of coordination IGR went extremely well this year. At the start of the year Brad(IGR Coordinator) and I decided that we wanted to achieve three things, host a developer party, improve the overall quality of games in the room and bring in more developers from interstate. We’re really stoked that we managed to achieve all there. On the Friday night we merged powers with ARGGGH(Adelaide’s Really Good Gathering of Game Developers) and hosted a party with a bar tab supplied by Simulation Australia. We improved the expression of interest promotions interstate which helped bring in new faces and improve the selection of games. This was the first year in which the expressions of interest were curated and the I think the room was better off for it.

So that’s the Indie Games Room for this year. We had a lot of fun and judging from the other responses, so did everyone else. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here.

Expand at Out of Index

Starting from about 2 months ago Chris and I began entering Expand into several different festivals/competitions. So far the selections have only been announced for one of those festivals which is Out of Index and luckily for us, Expand was selected. Out of Index was held roughly a week ago from today in Seoul, South Korea. The festival is a new festival that works in a similar fashion to the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC. Several games are selected based on their experimental nature, each game has a short 5 minute slot in which the developer presents the game to an audience and then the audience can play the games.

The organisers of Out of Index created this super rad trailer that gives you a better picture of what things were like.

Here is the presentation that I gave for Expand. It’s only five minutes long and should give you an idea about the mechanics that are used in the game.

The selection of games is a mix of Korean and international games. I’m currently working my way through the presentations for each game. I’d encourage you to do the same as there is a lot of interesting stuff to see.

Last weekend was AVCon and The Indie Games Room. I’ll do a post up about that after I receive some of the photo’s that were taken from the event.

Expand at Indie Games Room – AVCon + Talk

Expand is going to be playable at this year’s Indie Games Room at AVCon. AVCon is an anime and video games convention that is held annually at the Adelaide Convention Centre in South Australia. Both Chris and I will be there showing the game so feel to come along, play the game and have a bit of a chat with us about it.

I’ll also be giving a talk with Jake Moore about getting started making games on the Sunday afternoon. Here is the talk description.

Ever wanted to make your own video game? Not sure where to start? This is the session for you! We’ll be running through advice on getting started, what tools you need, where you can help and how you can distribute your game.

It should be a really fun weekend. I’ve been helping Brad, the IGR coordinator with the event this year. Mostly just preparing material for the website and handling the social media side of things.

Puzzle Script Workshop at Hamra Centre Library

I’m doing a re-run of the PuzzleScript workshop that I ran earlier in the year but this time at the Hamra Centre Library. The workshop will run from 10am to 2pm with a lunch break in between. This is apart of the library’s school holiday program and is aimed towards younger folks between the ages of 12 and 17(inclusive). I’m intending on keeping most of the workshop the same as the previous one. I’ll probably smooth out some of the sound bank material towards the end and possibly space things out a bit more.

Spots are limited so you’ll want to register for the event. The library has the software and computers all ready to go. So just bring yourself and some pen and paper to make notes.

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One of the attendee’s at the last event, a friend of mine called Stuart actually went on to build two great PuzzleScript games. They are The Nodus and The Nodus: The Puzzle Caves. I highly recommend them.

Update – There are no more spots available in the workshop. The slides from the past workshop are online, so you can follow along at home. I’ll probably update that website with the newer slides leading up to the event. The slides are largely passed on the PuzzleScript documentation with a few examples added to confirm people’s understanding of the material.

New Expand Website + Out of Index Selection

If you keep track of my Twitter feed then you will know that this posting is a few days out. So much has been going on recently that it’s tricky to keep track of it all.

Last week I update the website for Expand. If you’re not familair with Expand, it’s been a long term project for myself and good friend, Chris Larkin. To quickly summarise the game:

Expand is a single player video game in which players explore a circular labyrinth constructed as an abstract black and white geometric landscape. Players must avoid getting squashed as the labyrinth twists, stretches and reveals itself, always responding to the players actions and movements.

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The old wordpress website didn’t really convey what the game was about and felt a bit out of date. I think this new website quickly gets across what the game is about. Beyond setting up the page itself I also created a new Facebook page which I hope to regularly post to with updates about the game and it’s development. I also setup a short video of the game, some screens and Chris kindly uploaded one of the tracks to SoundCloud.

The game will definitely be available to download through itch.io and hopefully other distribution services too, if the cards fall nicely. I’ve currently announced a release date November 2014. It may be a little bit hopeful but it’s what we’re aiming for.

Last Thursday, when I was about to upload the website when I received an email confirming that Expand has been selected for the Out Of Index Festival in Seoul, South Korea. Out Of Index is a new games festival based on the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC. As part of Out Of Index I’ve submitted a short presentation about the game. It’ll also be playable at an after party event. This made my week. I’m really excited to be apart of something so fresh and exciting.

Expand will also be playable at this years Indie Games Room at Adelaide’s AVCon. I’ll do another post about that shortly as I’ve been involved in helping arrange the event this year.

The Cave of Ātman is released

The Cave of Ātman is out today. Based on the play tester feedback we made several tweaks through out the game. We also spend a bit of time layering the music as you progress through the puzzles.

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You can play the game on the following portals. If you enjoy the game then feel free to throw us some coin through itch.io.

Hayden has also made the soundtrack available for free on Bandcamp.

I believe that Dan is writing up an article about the game. I’ll share that through along my own thoughts about the game a bit later on.

Enjoy and let us know what you think.