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What I Have To Say

Included below is a 45 minute video of a talk and demonstration I gave at AmeCon 2010 (a UK anime/manga/gaming convention) to encourage more people to make video games.

I tried to break down some of the misconceptions that might dissuade people from making games and offer some tips I've learned through bitter experience. I also talked through the tools and resources people can use when starting out to make game development easier.

Video

Links from the talk

Talk Slides PDF

Beginner Software

Game Maker - 2D game creator

Construct - 2D game creator

Ren'Py - Visual novel creator

Intermediate Software

Flixel - Flash library

FlashPunk - Flash library

Unity - 3D engine

AGS - Adventure game creator

Wintermute - Adventure game creator

Inform - Interactive fiction creator

3D graphics

Google Sketchup - Easy modeling tool

Sculptris - Easy sculpting tool

Blender - NOT easy but free modeling tool

TurboSquid - Online archive of free and paid models

the3Dstudio - Online archive of free and paid models

Music

GarageBand - Music package free with Macs

Musagi - Free windows music package

Incompetech - Huge archive of free music

Indie Game Music - Free and paid music archive

Sound

SFXr - Chiptune style sound creator

Audacity - Sound recording/editing package

SoundBible - Free online sound archive

FreeSound - Free online sound archive

Italian Antics

So being a glutton for punishment, after I finished Critical Bypass I decided to jump on board for a second Action 52 game. This time I selected Alfredo, which in its original incarnation is a side scrolling action platformer with a chef fighting dangerous ingredients.

Once more unto the broth


I decided I'd go 2D this time thinking it would mean I could turn the project around a lot quicker. In reality it probably took about as much time as Critical Bypass however I am much happier with the results this time around.

I changed the gameplay to metroidvania style which is a genre I'm a big fan of but have never made anything in myself before. I wanted the art style to pay homage to the original and I went for the sharp edges semi-transparent style that I used in Seasons of Changes but this time the art was all drawn by me. Story wise I did something weird with it but you'll have to play it yourself to discover what I mean.

A finished dish


Of my recent games this is probably the one I'm most happy with. It's only about 15 minutes long but it's got more substance and polish than my jam games. It was also a chance to play around with more with mechanical gameplay and level design rather than my usual obsession with interactive storytelling.

I owe a lot of thanks to the people in the Action 52 Owns thread on TIGsource along with Terry who gave me loads of useful feedback in the final phase. Allowed me to polish it up a lot and make tons of subtle improvements that really made the game better.

So what next?

I was tempted to get involved in TIGSources's A Game By Its Cover competition and did a lot of research on a game concept but I've decided not to for the moment. Partly because I'm no longer keen on entereing game competitions as such, I much prefer jams without voting. More importantly though I want to take a break from all these small projects.

Right now I want to build something bigger, like the white chamber was and like Journal was going to be. I'm not 100% decided on which project will win out but there's a bunch in the air at the moment. Whichever it is I want to devote at least 3 months to making something bigger, more substantial.

Critical Thinking


I've just finished a new game called Critical Bypass. It's a remake of one of the many terrible games in the unlicensed NES cart Action 52. There's a project currently running on TIGSource called Action 52 Owns which is an attempt to get experienced developers to remake all of these awful games into really fun and playable remakes.

The project has not been without its arguments and drama but I've stayed out of all that and focused on making my game. Fundamentally I really like this project and hope it reaches a successful conclusion because it would be great to have a compilation of 52 great games from a huge range of talented developers each bringing their own style and ideas.

A poor workman...


So by the time I joined the project there wasn't many games to pick from. It was really a choice of which of the bland generic shooters could I make the most interesting game from.

I took Critical Bypass which in its original form was an eyesore of an experience. Circular ship flies along a dreadful looking moonscape following a road while shooting at colour blobs and blocks. I played it for a little while and there was almost nothing redeeming about it.

The next generation

I decided that I wanted to do something really different with the game. There's so many similar shoot 'em ups on Action 52 that I figured a lot of the other developers will be making straight shoot 'em ups with their own interesting mechanics. So I decided to turn the game into a 3D rail shooter akin to Rez or Panzer Dragoon. This also fits into my continuing exploration of what I can do with Unity.


However I really wanted to maintain a lot of the original spirit of the game so the player initially controls a UFO looking ship and the enemies were meant to resemble blobs and blocks. The first level also involved following a road along a gray moon-like surface.

I made the content with a combination of Sketchup for mechanical looking objects and Sculptris for the more biological enemies. I got a friend of mine to do some character portrait art for the cutscenes. Also during the polishing phase I threw out some of my ship models and replaced them with royalty free models I found online

Hmmmmmmm...

The game was supposed to be take me about 2 weeks to make but instead took around 4 and was pretty much the main thing I worked on during that period. My recent successes with Unity had led me to underestimate how complicated a rail shooter was going to be. The more I worked on it the more problems I was encountering and the more problems with my design I was finding.


I had some big problems that were ultimately unresolvable without starting it again. Using a Unity terrain on the first level caused huge performance problems for some people, and my not paying attention to keeping the different levels at a consistent world scale meant special effects such as explosions didn't really work right on the middle two levels.

I also now appreciate why Rez and Panzer Dragoon take place in big open spaces rather than tight canyons. To make it properly fun you need to have the enemies on screen for a long time and not just sweeping in and out as I had done.

Ultimately I'm not massively happy with the game. It could probably use more polish and work, and some sections starting over again but I think getting the game to a state where I'd be happy with it could take another whole month of development time. So right now I'm cutting my losses and have been balancing and tweaking what I have to make it as playable as possible.

This weekend was TIGJamUK3, a big event for me. TIGJamUK2 at the start of the year was kind of a milestone in me getting back into indie game development properly. I went to this jam a little more confident in my abilities to make games and knowing I was going to meet a lot of really talented people. It did not disappoint.

As always we were cramped in the CB2 Bistro in Cambridge, this time over 30 of us on a hot summer's weekend so it wasn't always the most comfortable affair but it was worth it. Over 100 games were made, most of which can be played over at http://www.cambridgeindies.com

High Score

I set something of a record for myself, producing 10 games. You can grab 9 of them my jams page. The final, I'd like to do a bit more work on and put it out as minor project rather than just a jam game.

Of those I made I'm most proud of the morbid exploring game Lithia, the relaxing mood piece Fishing Days and the comedic mischief VMU game Portable Bastard.

Also I'd be remiss if I didn't point how amused with myself I am over Garden of Delight and Find The Trumpet both of which are more jokes than games. Shouldn't always take all this too seriously.

One of Us

While my recent experiments with 3D in Unity have been great and I'm going to continue with them I have known for a while my methods of doing 2D is problematic. I was making Journal in XNA which was taking me forever, and I do jam games in Game Maker which means getting people to play them is usually a real hassle.

So after a lot of discussion around choice of platforms at the weekend I decided to try out Flixel. I downloaded and set it all up last night going through the tutorials as best I could. Then today I managed to port Fishing Days with a few improvements and have put it up on Kongregate: http://www.kongregate.com/games/PerrinAshcroft/fishing-days

Really happy with Flixel, much easier and quicker than I was finding XNA. Going to port and improve a few of my 2D jam games while I learn and then think about doing something more substantial with it.

So I've been up to a lot of things of late, I've made a few short games, learned how 3D works, traveled to San Francisco and had to make a very hard decision over the future of what I'm doing. So let me get started.

Closed Journal

The bad news as many already know is that I have had to shelve Journal indefinitely. The artist I was working on the game with has had to admit she doesn't have time to work on the project anymore. As the project was based on a story idea by her and to me the game is so emotionally linked to her, I couldn't consider bringing in another artist to replace her. So despite the huge amount of work that went into this and how far along the project was I've now stopped all work on it. I would love to tell the Journal story one day, and maybe with time I'll feel different about it all. Right now though I am unwilling to do anything more with it.

Missed Flights

I made a last minute decision to fly out to San Francisco and attend the Game Developer Conference. This was a great decision, in the many years since I last went to a GDC event it seems the indie community has become much more accepted is now a very well represented aspect of game development. I attended some really interesting panels, met a hell of a lot of great people including some personal heroes, I did a lot of quality drinking and even attended a 2 hour game jam in the lobby of the Hilton. Will definitely be going back again next year. Only downer was that I messed up my flight dates and missed my return flight and had drop a rather large chunk of money to get home.

Two Days in Cambridge

I took part in my first Ludum Dare competition. A bunch of us gathered to take part in the competition at the bistro in Cambridge that is becoming our regular indie hang out. Since I've made so many simple 2D gamemaker titles for short jams lately I wanted to use all the extra time to challenge myself. So I decided to make something 3D using a combination of SketchUp and Unity.

Once I found the theme was islands I felt inspired by Myst and wanted to make something that captured the exploration aspects of the game but without all the frustrating puzzles. So I went with the idea of telling a story through the environment as the player explored, specifically a story about a couple that were never meant to be together. So each island in the game would represent a dream of a time in their relationship.

You can download the game on the site now, and while it's certainly a bit rough around the edges in a lot of places, and I had to rely on a bit more text than I'd have preferred I'm actually kind of proud of the game. More so than most of the stuff I make.

John Keats

Next up I made a game for the second game's pageant competition over at www.thegamescollective.org, this time the theme was a concept called "negative capability" which I interpreted to mean creativity thriving with the realisation that you can't solve and understand everything in the world. I decided to make another 3D game with the Unity/SketchUp combo, and try to polish it a bit more this time. Also as I typically always resort to storytelling I decided to see if I can pull off this theme using more game-like mechanics. Again you can download it here on the site.

What do I do now?

So with these short projects out of the way and Journal now dead in the water I need to decide what I'm doing next. I've been speaking with some of my artistic friends to look who's interested in working with me because let's face it, my art sucks. And I've now got three potential projects with three different kinds of artists:

  • One girl I know does really stunning painted style CG art, that while not appropriate for a lot of game types would work really with some kind of interactive visual novel done in Ren'Py. So I'm currently drafting out a story for that.
  • I know a rather talented 3D artist who typically works in creating photo-realistic shots for TV adverts who's looking to do some work in games. So as this fits with my new found love for Unity, I'm planning a small pilot project to try out with him before we move on to do something more substantial in 3D.
  • I contacted the artist for the white chamber, and while sadly he's busy with a very exciting project I probably can't talk about here, he did recommend a friend of his who also looks very talented. If she's up for it I'd like to do a commercial 2D project to replace Journal. There's a lot to say about that so I'll explain more detail in a future post.

So right now my plan is to pursue all three of these projects, especially as the first two are much smaller in scope, and for the third I'm hoping to reuse a lot of the engine tech I made for Journal.

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Welcome to the home of Locked Door Puzzle, the independent game development studio of Richard Perrin located in Bristol.

My primary focus is on creating expressive games that explore different forms of interactive storytelling.

For contact details check the about page.