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Jana visited Ramallah for a workshop

Ramallah Street

It's always a great experience for me traveling other countries. Not only to visit new places and meet different people, but as a welcoming reset of perspective. Getting to know places like Ramallah in Palestine is such a journey that often helps you experience things differently than you thought they would be. In Germany we mostly hear about Palestine in the news, when terrorists are bombing people or a new election is running. My friends and family were worried for my safety, not only because of Palestine, but moreover my plane landing in Tel Aviv, Israel - also mostly known to Germans for bombings, stabbings and elections.

Only a few people know that students in Ramallah study Computer Science, create games and were going to take part in the Global Game Jam for the first time this year.

Ramallah city

As it turns out, everything is different than expected and my invitation to give a workshop for students became a pleasant trip. Of course, the infamous questioning of Israeli airport authorities every flight is starting with, the twice, thrice check of your bags, is annoying. Whatever, you tell them the story of your life in twenty minutes and be done with it...

As a German traveling this region is somewhat special, as you get reminded of your country's own history and the parallels to the ongoing conflict more than once. It's not only the Holocaust I'm talking of, but also the separation of a country through a wall. A separation that not only cuts off people locally, but also mentally. It's saddening how few everyone knows about each other, despite having free internet access and therefore unfiltered information. But I guess a separation like that sits deeper than the lack of information and I'm not sure my short travel report will give this deep wound any justice. So let's focus on the stuff I understandgames!

Every year on the last weekend of January the Global Game Jam takes place. The whole world jamming to one theme in local hubs together and Ramallah was jamming this year, too. Thanks to the French-German Cultural center, Thorsten 'Storno' and his team from the German Indie festival A Maze, the freshly founded local maker space and the Palestine game developer Pinch Point this was going to happen. Ammar Tazami from Pinch Point and I were giving workshops in advance - about game art and design for game jams from my side, and Ammar about 'Working with Unity'.

The participants where Computer Science students from the whole country, but mostly the Birzeit University near Ramallah. The number of women in my workshop was astonishing. Okay, one participant 'cheated', by bringing his two sisters with him, which was great.

Although, according to an interview with Palestine-based marketing and PR head Katy Hanna 70% of the Birzeit graduates are women. Are there really more women studying computer stuff? I would like to know more about that!

Ramallah market

Ramallah was founded by Christians and still has a lot of churches. And therefore also bars that serve booze. Although well known, Ramallah only is one part of two cities growing into each other. The bigger part (ca. 120.000 inhabitants) is Al-Bireh, it's Muslim sister.
What confused
me and a lot of people I met is that Ramallah (together with Al-Bireh) seems to be a city like any other. Sure, oriental with hundreds of one-man street shops and carts, loud, vivid, crowded and no car movement without reflexive honking. The streets often miss some kind of pavement, which is either non-existent or used by palms and olive trees, therefore people walk between cars. If they would have the ability to honk, they probably would.

Ramallah crowded

But between women wearing colourful head scarfs (or not) and men sometimes clothed in thawbs, you may spot hipsters and always well-dressed young people. They have Macs, iPhones and probably visited or even studied outside of Palestine. The only difference (well, I was there for three days) is the ubiquitous sense of being locked up. Even though Palestines can travel, it's not an easy process and has to be allowed by Israeli authorities, while flights can only happen from Lebanon. You might easily forget all this while sitting in one of the many cozy cafés or bars, drinking delicious Arabic coffee with cardamom or the new Palestine Shepherds beer.

workshop

Therefore it was a pleasure to meet some of the local developers, although for a much too short time. My talk mainly focused on simple tools to restrict yourself. I feel that beginners often try to add too much to a picture or game in order too make it more interesting. But the better approach would be to focus on a few elements only and flesh them out. In the end I gave the students a small game Friedrich and I created together shortly before I went to Ramallah. Students had the task to exchange the games graphics and come up with new graphic assets, remembering all they have learned in the last three hours. One of the students, Ahmad Nairat, sent me his graphics (the one on the bottom):

LongTongue_Mod

Two weeks after me, Thorsten and Matthias Löwe came to Ramallah to prepare the Global Game Jam. Look at what the guys in Palestine created!

See my workshop pdf here.
Load our game Long Tongue here.
See more of my fotos from Ramallah here.

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Happy Holidays!

See you next year!

 

The Rat King wishes all His friends and followers a Great Christmas and an Awesome Year 2016! May all your wishes come true, and all your projects meet their deadlines!

Greetings from Jana and Friedrich

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New project – The Power of Love

The Power of Love - screenshot

Hey everyone!

Our last game TRI is browsing the green meadows of the First Highly Overambitious-but-finished Games for one year now and since then it has been a bit calm around our blog. It is not really easy to dive into the next project right after the game you have been working on for two and a half years is finished and got quite richly awarded with prizes. We just couldn't create a new game right after such a project. Not after a month. Or half a year.

Every project we started seemed not to be sufficient enough to be THE next project that would make us happy, keep us motivated and conquer this damn indie market. At least on some point in this depression quest we decided to f*ck the pressure and just make the game we wanted to create for so long while developing TRI: A multiplayer game that people will be able to pick up at exhibitions and have fun with together. A game where players really have to work together and talk to each other while playing.

When playing many crawlers that also allow multiple players we realized that players often don't need to care for each other. Everyone just shoots around until the stage is cleared. There is no need for interaction or sticking together. It's more of a competition instead of real coop.

In the Power of Love we have strong attacks that only work if you time your movement. And this leads to quite some energetic play-throughs, because you happen to depend on each other.

Last week we showcased the current prototype at the Poznan Game Arena in Poland (which we used as a personal deadline for the project). The PGA is the computer games event that we attended a year ago already; we came back because we enjoyed the country, people, beer, atmosphere and - moreover - visitors play-testing our game through the acid test.

poznan_03 poznan_02 poznan_04

poznan_01

(The last photo was made by Frank Groh. Danke!)

This is only the first announcement. Further information, pictures and videos will follow. If you like to stay updated, follow this blog or subscribe to our newsletter!

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Making-of video 5, Artbook, Honorable Mention

Yes, updates seem to become rarer and rarer. The main reason for this is that we still do not have a new project. Yes, we do have plans, but as usual nothing is set in stone yet, and nothing drove us into a development frenzy. Since the release of TRI we created a few internal prototypes and game jam games, some of them I wrote about on my personal blog. We also update our Facebook page more often than this blog, as some news are tiny.

And while we planned and created ideas and abandoned them every month, we were also giving interviews for local radio and TV broadcasts and local newspapers - so it's all in German. Press came when they heard that we won "Best Youth Game" at the German Computer Game Award 2015, so this is a nice side effect. Jana also created a booklet for German indies, which you can grab at the upcoming Gamescom 2015, or just read it online thanks to Martin Nerurkar. (Yes, we will be at the Gamescom, but mostly as visitors only.)

Another thing we did was filming my brother Ludwig Hanisch in his basement, where he created the music for TRI. It's an interview of around 15 minutes about family, inspirations and instruments. Watch it now - it even has English subtitles!

In order to create a more extensive, more interesting post-mortem of TRI, we made a digital artbook. Even though I already wrote a short retrospective about TRI's development, I felt it was necessary to close this chapter in a much cooler way. Thus there is the artbook now, which exists in two versions:

  • The full edition (94 pages) contains it all, background information, WIP screenshots, concept art, scribbles, etc. - everybody who bought the deluxe edition of TRI has it.
  • The lite edition is free to download for everybody - it contains the first 51 pages of the full edition and is only missing the transcript of the developers' commentary; the very same commentary you can also unlock in the game.
tri artbook cover tri artbook example page

Oh, and one last thing: to our surprise TRI got an Honorable Mention at the 2015 Geekie Awards, which is pretty crazy if you consider the high-quality competitors. Thanks to the judges for the mention!

geekie awards

That's it for today. Hopefully we have more news sooner next time!

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TRI – Award and Update

Exciting news AND great news ahead!

I still can't believe it myself, but our game TRI won an award just yesterday. So it's now officially the Best Youth Game according to the German Computer Game Award 2015! The award in this category comes with a prize money of around 50,000 Euros - which hopefully helps us to finance our next project.

\o/ CELEBRATION \o/

Dear judges of the Computerspielpreis: thank you very much for this honor. And also a big thanks to all the congratulators!

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Onwards to the other news. We took the time to update TRI. The latest release "PythagoreanBeauty" mainly contains a few minor bug-fixes and changes to the game which hopefully improve the overall experience. Some of the levels improvements and additions are:

  • Added an object force field in "Glimpse of Light" to prevent players getting stuck (minor fix)
  • Added some stepping stones to "A Temple on the Mountain"
  • Added a force field wall to "Overcoming Limitations" to prevent players from getting stuck without the wall-walk TRI (minor fix)
  • Replaced a few of the deadly light rays with less deadly light rays (orange color) to make them easier
  • Added a lever for a gate in front of an idol in "Out of the Box"
  • Added minor visual hints in "The Foxes' Playground", "Glimpse of Light" and "Red Means Dangerous"
  • Changed bottom puzzle in "Glimpse of Light" a bit to prevent glitches

A partial list of bugs removed:

  • Fixed a rare, scale related bug with the elevator in "Wings in the Void"
  • Fixed Monk not talking anymore after collecting the first TRI when moving away from him (minor fix)
  • Fixed subtitles not being shown anymore after pressing Escape
  • Fixed end statistics (played chapters and such)
  • Fixed a bug which caused resetting the statistics when restarting a level
  • Fixed a minor bug in "Out of Space and Time" by replacing an invisible triangle-destroying box with a visible one
  • Fixed an idol in "Wings in the Void" (regression from v1.0.1), should count now for the bonus content when collected again

Other changes include:

  • Improved black border and skip button for cutscenes
  • Added option to deactivate the voice of the Monk
  • Added a text in pause menu screen indicating how many chapters were played in the current playthrough
  • Changed auto-statify (of current triangle) slightly - moving the current corner beneath the player won't make the triangle immediately static anymore (min distance is 1m)

A complete list can be found in the Steam announcement. We tried to listen to what players said in the forums and via mail as much as we could, and especially the less deadly light rays might be very welcome to some of our players! Sadly, some things reported we didn't fix because we just could not reproduce the behaviour. So, in case you found a bug, it would be great if you could send a relevant save game and the last log to us, together with a description of the bug. (The Steam announcements also contains the folders where to find the save games and the log file.)

Last but not least, if you happen to attend the Lange Nacht der Computerspiele in Leipzig this Saturday - Friedrich will be there from 3:00pm, interviewed by the famous René Meyer for 20 minutes.

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Podcast #4 – Co-op Games für die LAN-Party

podcast_coop

Ich weiß nur, dass es eigentlich sehr spaßig ist, wenn wir uns gegenseitig so anbrüllen. Und das ist zu viert einfach lustiger. (Friedrich)

Friedrich und ich haben neulich mal wieder zusammen mit Freunden gezockt und viele, viele Spiele ausprobiert. Was sich für Lans eignet, was man kompetitiv oder zusammenspielen kann. Und was fetzt und was eher nicht, erfahrt ihr im neue Podcast:

00:01:04 Risk of Rain ist unser neuer Lan-Klassiker
00:04:00 Far Cry 3
00:08:13 Damned lässt euch Monster spielen
00:14:15 Gang Beasts
00:18:38 Crawl
00:23:50 Attack of the Labyrinth
00:26:50 Hammerwatch
00:28:05 Legends of Dungeon
00:32:00 Contagion
00:33:00 Dino D-Day
00:36:10 Nidhogg
00:37:58 Portal 2 Co-op
00:38:26 The Ship
00:40:33 Tristoy

Habt ihr Spiele-Tipps für unsere nächste Lan-Party?

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We are nominated for the German Computer Games Award!

Hey folks,

it got a bit silent here on this blog for the last time, except some entries about journeys to promote TRI. We are currently planning a new project. At least we try. It's not easy to come up with something that beats your 3-year game project without consuming so much time and nerves.

But then, this baby brought us the wonderful nomination for the Deutsche Computerspielpreis (German Computer Games Award) in the category 'Bestes Jugendspiel' (Best Youth Game). Together with the awesome The Last Tinker by Mimimi Productions and "The Curious Expedition" by Maschinenmensch we will attend the award ceremonies on April, 21st in Berlin.

Until then, there is the opportunity to push us higher for the audience award and even win a ticket for the ceremony. Just head to this page and follow the instructions below. It's easy-peasy until you encounter the German anti-spam question under your e-mail. Just use Google Translate or write us a mail or tweet and we help you.

Tri Voting DCP

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The Casual Connect / Indie Prize 2015

On February the 3rd I took the train to Amsterdam. I was in the Netherlands before, but Amsterdam is something on its own and a city I'd really like to explore a bit. Unfortunately I wasn't able to see much of it during my time there: the Casual Connect Europe was calling! But not really. The Casual Connect - to be honest - is a convention about making money by utilizing browser and mobile games, free2play, in-game advertizing and so on. Not something where our game TRI would fit in, at first glance.

But here's the thing: the Indie Prize, which according to its Twitter is "a scholarship program for up and coming indie development teams who show promise to be future leaders in the games industry", also is an integral part of the Casual Connect. They probably included it so they would have actual game developers present and not only the publishers and SDK developers. Therefore five large rows of tables were set up and housed around 100 indies and their games. And PC games were allowed!

Play TRI!

So that's why I could show TRI for three full days on our laptop, along with some promo material. My table, or rather my half of the table, consisted of red table cloth to stand out a bit in a subtle way, a laptop with TRI to play, some flyers and my old 7 inch Galaxy tablet showing the release trailer of our game in a loop. I had to download an app so the trailer would actually loop - turned out the normal video player doesn't support that. I didn't find an app that would be able to show more than one video, but I guess that's asked too much already. I really wanted to have our iPad to play the trailer, but somehow it seems to be an impossible task to get the synchronizing of your own stuff (like videos) to work correctly. To be honest, Android is a bliss in this regard...

Anyway, it was really helpful to have the trailer, otherwise it would not be clear what TRI is about if you just looked at the screen for a few seconds. Some kind of eye catcher is always a plus! (Although some people pushed it a bit too hard with posters 2 meters high, just so you'd vote for their game ...) And for the first time our flyers were really nice - as they were not only printed with the correct colors, but also printed in time, so I actually had them with me. Yay!

Flyers

The other half of my table was reserved for Constantin Graf aka RebusMind and his puzzle tile swapper with RPG elements SwapQuest, presented on two tablet computers. I played it for a long time when there was nothing to do, and I must say I really like it. The option to customize your character and the appealing graphics made me dig it a lot, and when Constantin will finally release it (soon) on Android I'm going to buy it for sure. Game Loop Lab's Blockadillo was next to Constantin, another 2D mobile game - this one has nice graphics, which for a change are handdrawn AND not pixel art! I already played it a bit on my own device as it is free2play, so I can only recommend to try it out. Last in the row of 'German games' was Schein, another PC game actually made by the Austria-based Zeppelin Studio. It's a unique, well done and very hard puzzle platformer which I luckily already have on Steam.

German Corner

It became apparent pretty fast that the organizers of the Indie Prize placed developers together according their country of origin, which was cool because this way one could compare games from each country and culture directly. So when I found the time to actually walk around a bit and have a look at the other projects, it was like wandering over a tiny globe. ;) Unfortunately I didn't have that much time or energy to play a lot of games. I remember liking Find the line a lot, and I wonder why it wasn't even nominated at the awards.

Indie Prize Tables

But the award ceremony was pretty well done, in my opinion. It had the right length, everything between the nominees was short and emotional. It was super nice that each finalist had a short moment of fame as a trailer of the game was shown. The judges did the right thing and didn't nominate any game more than twice - this way, more different games were in the final rounds and the award ceremony did not become repetitive. We are very grateful that TRI was nominated in the categories "Best Game Design" and "Best PC Game" - truly a big honour for us! Congratulations at this point to every team which won an award - I won't list them here, as I surely would forget someone. (You can find all the winners here!)

Award Ceremony

My only gripe with the ceremony is the fact that it began at noon on Friday, a bit of a strange time. I missed a warm lunch this way! Of course, that's not really something to complain about, as free lunch packages were handed out by the friendly volunteers and the buffet was free too. Overall this was the least expensive convention I went to, ever - even the accommodations were paid for: the StayOkay hostel was around 15 minutes of bus ride away, but it was comfortable and the breakfast was included. Interesting enough I was the only one in my 6-bed-dorm; I talked to some people about their lodging, and no one knew that there was some kind of Indie Hostel!

Amsterdamn

As I had to take the bus or the tram each day I had the opportunity to have a better look at Amsterdam. It really is a captivating city, with the grachten and the cool architecture. I will definitely revisit it some time, so hopefully I can actually see it by daylight then. ;) At least I had the change to explore some of the party locations, as the Casual Connect hosted a get-together each evening. For example, Constantin and I played a local multiplayer game and danced a bit at the Official Party "NEON" in the Club AIR.

My personal highlight - besides the nominations - was the fact that I had the chance to briefly speak to Peter Molyneux - I just love his game Dungeon Keeper. He was there to give a talk about inspirations and having new ideas. It was kind of interesting, as he gave some insights into Godus, 22cans' team structure and how to engage players. All this not very deeply, of course. I hope the Unity team recorded the talk, as he expressed "I love Unity!" loud and clear on stage. In the end I managed to give Mr. Molyneux a TRI flyer, which I am sure he framed and hung above his bed.

Molyneux At Work

I only found the motivation to visit one additional lecture; it was about workflow and automation for when you have lots of content and a small team. The talk was held by Alexander Birke from Rumpus Animation and was pretty complete, as everything was explained on what you should do in order to keep a general view over your project. There were a lot of other talks and presentations, always four at the same time. Fortunately most of them were about user acquisition and advertising and so on; not really interesting to me - thus I had more time to showcase TRI.

Although that was a bit in vain, as there wasn't much press at the Casual Connect (or it hid really well from me). But meeting other indie developers along with the volunteers (who guarded the tables and helped where necessary), and talking to them was the best part of the whole show anyway.

At the last day I got a bit sick, which is why I left right after the end. Normally I only catch the Fresher's Flu when I get home, so this was a new thing for me. Nonetheless the Casual Connect was nice and a positive surprise to me thanks to the Indie Prize organizers. A big shout-out to them!

And next time I might even be more open to the whole business thing!

Yes.

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