— cjohnson games

Events

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.

hero-image-ais

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).

10570401_609230335864419_5278606395419475590_n

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.

BuKFPKZIgAAkC8A

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.

screen1

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.

screen5

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.

playtesting

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.

stugame

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.

Third Games Playtesting Session

Later this month there will be another games play testing session held at CDW Studios. It’ll start run from 2pm – 4pm on Sunday 25th of May. If you’re making a game or interested in helping play test some then feel free to come along.

pacmanphysic2s_re

All of the important details have been posted on the Facebook event page. Hope to see you there.

Expressions of Interest open for IGR

The Indie Games Room is an area inside of Adelaide’s AVCon reserved for showcasing independent games to AVCon attendees. I’ve been involved in showing games within IGR for the last three years, helped organise it in 2011 and am supporting this year’s organiser.

igr

Expressions of Interest(EOI) for this years Indie Games Room(IGR) are now open and will be open till Friday 16th May at 5pm ACST. Given my involvement with IGR I’d encourage game developers to consider submitting an EOI for this years show. I think’s it’s a valuable experience and I want to provide a few reasons as to why this is the case.

It’s a deadline!

Festivals and shows act as great reasons to get stuff done. They provide you with a deadline to plan and work towards. Unlike any arbitrary deadline you may construct for your team an event actually has real world weight and importance. Failing to meet that deadline also has consequences beyond the disappointment of not meeting them.

Understanding your own game

The EOI process tends to take people longer than expected to complete. This is especially true this year as we’ve front loaded the EOI with details that would usually be asked for later. Running through this process is important as it helps you understand your own game. For example, when writing a short description of your game you will likely think about:

  • What is the most succinct way to describe the game?
  • What is the most important thing to highlight when describing the game?
  • What makes my game interesting? How do I clearly articulate this?
  • What other games are similair to my game?
  • Is there a way for press to access the information I’m entering beyond contacting IGR?

By showing your game you will also see other interpretations of it, beyond helping you refine and improve your game these interpretations also help in strengthening your vision of what the game is and isn’t.

Meeting other developers

Talking to developers every year, many of them say that the best part of the room is meeting and networking with other developers. The number of games being shown at IGR is quite high and as such there is a large crowd of developers who are actively creating. In order to help facilitate networking we are intending on running a developer only event on either the Friday or Saturday night.

Motivation

Most people make games in order for them to be played. Seeing people play your game and be excited about it really helps in maintaining motivation after the event.

Other things

Beyond the points raised above there are other reasons to be apart of IGR. I’ve listed these below.

  • Receive Press about your game
  • Find bugs, test changes – You can make changes on the Saturday night and then see them in action on Sunday
  • Advertising – In the past developers have taken email addresses of fans, handed out pamphlets and more
  • Find Employment – Several developers have found employment through contacts met at IGR

Thanks for reading. You can find links to submit an expression of interest on the Indie Games Room website.

Puzzle Script Workshop this Saturday

This is just a short post to say that I’ll be running a workshop on PuzzleScript this Saturday at the new Adelaide City Council library in Rundle Mall. The workshop runs from 1-5pm and will cover the different aspects of PuzzleScript. Besides learning how to use PuzzleScript you’ll also get the opportunity to make your own game. This workshop is intended for beginners and should be a casual, friendly and fun event.

tumblr_mubvg72rSj1skdgaao1_400

You can book a spot in the workshop through the library website.