Categories
49 Prototypes games

Showcasing (3x)

March has been a busy (and a crazy) month. I planned on attending three showcasing events and I had scheduled to release the Alfa. Still, I had a lot to fix before I showing it publicly. If folks would be playing the 49:Protoype I at least wanted to present them the best playable but also a version of the game they could understand. After indexing everything needed for the Alfa, I went to town.

Tutorial

One of the main additions to the Alfa needed was a tutorial. I could explain to folks how the game works during a showcase, but it’s not ideal. So I needed to create a system that explains that, e.g. a tutorial. But there different approaches to this. Because of the complexity of the combat, I didn’t want to present a player with slides, a written tutorial a player needs to scroll through explaining every in a wall of text. My solution was a screen pause and a text overlay depending on the state of the combat. Not the easiest method, since I’ll need to create a check-in every state. But, it’s one that guides the player through the action and one I could possibly develop in this short amount of time.

One of the 49:Prototype tutorial screens.

DGG Network Lunch

First on the list for showcasing is the Network Lunch at Dutch Game Garden every first Wednesday of the month. I organize this event so it was funny to be on the other end of things. I went to the official motions of signing myself up and having the communication intern processing my submission and setting things up. Much fun.

Since it’s a mobile game and Dutch Game Garden provides cool retro gaming cabinets with a built-in screen, I made a screen recording of the game so I got something to show to bystanders while others could play on one of my two phones I had prepped. It helped players kinda preview what they were getting into and get them acquainted with the combat and art while not having to directly interact with the combat in-game.

Gathering some newsletter subscribers while I’m at it.

The feedback on the game was amazing! I was overcome with a huge sense of joy seeing folks play and getting hyped defeating the enemies and trying to attain a higher score. I received a lot of helpful feedback on in-game user feedback, confusing parts, and so on. But the positive feedback on the look and feel of the game, calling it juicy and satisfying to play meant a lot to me. Folks mentioned they didn’t mind my placeholder characters and were eager to know when I was planning to release it!

Playdev Club

Playdev.club is organized by Adriaan de Jongh and Aran Koning. It’s a gathering of a maximum of 25 developers showing each other their latest projects and providing feedback on them.

I attended a year ago while building Heartless. The feedback was really valuable. Having a bunch of developers there provides a different dialogue than with traditional players. You can discuss the underlying systems of a game more in-depth which offers a lot of different insights into common issues. Besides another great round of feedback, I was able to get a couple of discussions surrounding the monetization of the game and picked up quite a few different strategies that might be helpful for 49:Prototype.

Playdev.club is hosted at a different location each time around and this time, we went over to the office of Twirlbound. They recently released Pine and moves office. It’s great being able to play games with fellow developers, provide feedback, and have a slice of pizza and a beer while you’re at it.

Barcode_02

Barcode_02 takes place in a gallery workshop in Breda. With most gaming-related events taking place near Amsterdam or Utrecht, this one was close by, and having showcased twice this month I thought it couldn’t hurt showcasing a third time. I even managed to quickly fix a couple of bugs and feedback loops from the two previous showcases.

Funny thing though, the folks from Barcode_02 organized a deconstruction workshop, providing in-depth feedback on art, design, and marketability. But, one of the judges dropped out and then they asked me(!) if I wanted to provide feedback on marketability.

While I haven’t released a lot of games, I am a marketeer by trade and have picked up quite a lot during incubation at Dutch Game Garden and through our Agency program with our Business Developer. So I thought, why not?!

I played through a selection of games, noted down my well thought out feedback, and eventually walked through my feedback that on ‘stage’ with the developer and other judges. It was great! Usually, I’m not one for being the center of attention, but in this atmosphere, with the topic being marketing and games and probably being asked at the last minute and not being able to fret on it for weeks, I had a blast!

I wasn’t able to gather a lot of feedback on my game though, but still saw a couple of folks returning to try and beat the high score and saw plenty of reactions looking like they enjoyed themselves.

/end showcase

As you might have guessed, showcasing was great! Seeing folks react and enjoying the game gives me a burst of joy and energy. Hopefully, I’ll be showcasing again soon, though with Corona making its way, it might be some time before physical events are possible.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on implementing the feedback and continue working on 49:Prototype 🙂

Categories
49 Prototypes games

Prepping the Alfa and Showcase build

Initially, I had scheduled to release the 49:Prototypes Alfa at the end of January and surprise surprise, that didn’t happen. I’ve been trying to cram as much in the Alfa as possible and of course, that didn’t work. So now I’m trying to remind myself that the Alfa isn’t a representation of the finished game, ánd that the Alfa mostly is going to land in the hands of developers. Therefore I would not need to worry so much. It’s all about the core gameplay feedback.

Eventually, I pushed about 80% of the features and bugs that I wanted to put in the Alfa towards the Beta and even towards the Release build. Leaving me with some doable deliverables for the coming two weeks.

Another thing I stopped doing is immediately trying to fix bugs when running into them, which feels very counterproductive. Thing is that in 80% of the time, these bugs (and honestly often missing art and features) don’t affect the Alfa build at all and are, at this point, just wasted time. So with the schedule cleared, I should be able to get to the Alfa in time.

Putting the different systems together for the Alfa build did make me reassess my core gameplay loop though. 49:Prototypes isn’t a big game, but having focussed so long on the smaller details and mechanics of it just makes me doubt if the core loop is fulfilling enough. It’s a common feat during a development cycle I know. You could break any game down making it blehhh. After a while all these ideas and narratives just get foggy. I reckon that’s another reason to do the Alfa. Having some folks play the game longer than me just shoving it into their hands in a social gathering and being able to get a more in-depth experience of the thing.

The 49:Prototypes Alfa will be available in the first week of March. If you’re interested in providing some feedback on the game and I haven’t asked you already, just contact me through mail or social. I really can’t get enough feedback on the game so any help is much appreciated!

Categories
49 Prototypes games

Art & Rotoscoping

It’s hard finding the right art style for a game and deciding on it is just as hard. Because it’s hard to go back on a choice made with limited resources and time. I’ve been consciously refraining from making a decision on it. Not that I don’t have a style in mind. I’ve been hoarding art on my Pinterest for a while, and all of them could suit the project well. But what suits best? For the effect, I want to achieve, for the scope and budget, and for technical limitations. With the release planned in a couple of months and the gameplay more or less working, I need to start working towards art.

A couple of months ago, during the Dutch Game Garden Network Lunch in Utrecht, I put up a request for an artist to help me out. And it didn’t take long before visual developer Anouk O’Leary reached out to me. I commissioned her for a couple of character designs that came out great. Her designs give a lot of insight on what may or may not work in the game. Since I will (need to) animate the art myself, I’ll be drawing over 1600 frames for all the enemies and the player. (Don’t do the math how long it will take me..) So the simpler, the better. Besides that, I’m especially a fan of her work on the critters, though I can’t tell you yet what they are for (yet).

For the current build, I’m still using the original old drawings I made by tracing a couple of stances I put together in Cinema4D. Most people mention they like the art already, but it’s time to shelve these guys. Most of the animation sprites are only 3 frames, some only one. And for the game, I’m really looking for an animation that can smoothly transition slower and faster within the gameplay. And for that reason, I’ve bought a morph suit!

Rotoscoping

If you’re not familiar with rotoscoping. It’s a pretty simple technique. You capture video footage of movement and then trace each frame. The result is a superfluid animation because it’s based on real footage. It’s also a great way to get the animations down if you don’t have any talent in drawing body proportions in 3D as I do!

Fire and Ice Gif
A nice example of rotoscoping in the old Fire and Ice cartoon.

With the morph suit in possession, I’ll need to chalk it up with different reference points. Since I’ll be having multiple enemies in the game in different stages I will use different tracing colors for each enemy. Unfortunately, the morph suit came without a headpiece, so I’ll need to find a mask to go with it.

Another thing is, I don’t fit in the suit! I thought I bought it in my size, but it’s less stretchy than I hoped it would be. Luckily, when I was looking for a location with enough spacing and light for the recordings at a buddy of mine helped me out. While recording some testing material he used a couple of his Hapkido sword techniques and that fits nicely with the needed animations. So I hope I can convince him to wearing the suit for the actual recordings!

Categories
49 Prototypes games

Making 49:Prototypes public

I haven’t shared a lot on 49:Prototypes. That’s mainly because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. Originally the game was part of a much larger concept, and 49:Prototypes is only a teeny-tiny slice of that idea.

Even with 49:Prototypes being that small slice of a greater whole, I was afraid that I needed to dumb down the game even further. My coding skills are horrendous, and the scope was still was quite large for my taste. Large being, it will take me more than 6 months. Starting 2019 I initially set out to do one-month-games, now I’m already a couple of months in with 49:Prototypes and got a couple of months more to go. Check this link if you don’t know what 49:Prototypes is.

In these past few months though, I’ve made quite a bit of progress and received a lot of enthusiasm and positive feedback when showing it to friends and colleagues. Initially, they were confused by the fast-paced mechanics and the duality of the interface and the movement of the characters. But after they got the rules of play down, they were eager to beat each other’s score and get a higher ranking.

Letting others play I noticed three big takeaways. One being, they already like the current art style and design, even though I keep commenting that everything they see is placeholder art (artistic self-protection). So I might keep the final art more in line with the current placeholders and spend less time on new art.

Secondly, the game is way too hard and confusing to understand at first. So I need to start thinking about how I want to introduce a tutorial. I’ve already put in quite some effort to gradually improve the difficulty while you play. As a player, you progress through 4 different ‘worlds’, each world presenting a new layer of options and restrictions in battle as well as new enemies. So, back to the drawing board on that one, see if I can simplify it even more.

And last, but the most important one; they enjoyed it! So that gave me some new incentive to keep working on the game and that it does have some potential in the market. It’s a common developer thing when you lock yourself and your project in from the outside world you will soon find yourself in a tunnel vision, where either everything is great, or everything you made sucks. So it’s important to keep playtesting, for feedback and for validation.

Anyway! This is the start of me sharing more 49:Prototypes content. I’ll be polishing a test build in January and want to share some game-play soon. I’m also thinking about showcasing the game in February and will start looking for Alpha testers. If you want to stay updated, check out my freshly made newsletter in the footer and follow other vague updates of mine on twitter.