Category «Android»

Global Game Jam 2017 – Post Mortem

In January 2017 Jana and I were part of the Global Game Jam, as usual. We had some doubts we'd do it again in Leipzig, because every year it gets a bit harder to wake up in the HTWK (the university where the jam site is located) without a shower or hot water at all. Yes, we're getting older. Our plans went back and forth between not going at all, or driving back home for the nights, or getting an AirBnB. In the end we did it as always.

Thankfully! Commodations aside, it was a very nice experience. A few days before we made some key decision for our jam entry, especially the choice of target platform: VR. As we don't own a full-blown HTC Vive or so, we made a Google Cardboard game for Android. I think it turned out quite well, because it was doable in the scope we aimed for, even though it was our first VR game.

The theme itself ("Waves") wasn't very interesting, but it slowly formed the direction of our game. When we began to think in terms of sound waves, we soon decided that some radio in our game would tell the player what to do. So you'd be in some kind of labyrinth, trying to find that radio by searching around and listening to its noise, and then activate it, because it tells you how to reach the exit. This became less important later, but it's still in the game. So while we don't feature "waves" promintently, the game was definitely inspired by it.

One of the first WIP screenshots

What we have now is an atmospheric stealth game where you play some thief or treasure hunter in a haunted mansion. You walk around, steal things (mostly valuables), evade scary ghosts, use keys, and find the radio and the exit. As the game is a Virtual Reality game, the player's movement is restricted to gliding between square floor tiles in cardinal directions. This is very similar to my Ludum Dare entry Wood for the Trees from last year, but this time the limitation was imposed to us because of the nature of VR games. Free movement was out of question, and a typical "magically beam to place" approach could have been a bit too complex for our first 48 hours VR game. In the end, the limited movement also helped to define the simple but effective behaviour of the evil ghosts, which don't follow you but patrol between the rooms in the same manner as the player.

As usually our games have a somewhat high entry barrier, one of our goals was to simplify controls. With a VR game this seemed easy to do - you don't have much different input methods anyway. All you can do in our jam entry is looking around and take stuff by looking at it for a short time, which is why Jana had the idea to name it Hands Off Thief, as you steal without using your hands... Initially I planned to have the same approach for walking around the rooms - an arrow on the floor tells you if you're allowed to walk into that direction you're looking, and if so, looking at the arrow for a short time moves you to the next room. But it turned out that this is a bit awkward, as you'd always have to look down to walk around. Now players have to activate the trigger (i.e. touch the screen of their phone) when the arrow is shown, which feels a bit more natural.

I prepared by reading articles about VR development for mobile platforms. It was helpful to know that there are some heavy restrictions regarding drawcalls and polycount in order to maintain 60 frames per seconds on a phone. This way I wouldn't be surprised by bad performance at the end of the jam. Thus, from the beginning the Unity project was set up to use cheap vertex lighting, and I programmed a simple occlusion culling i.e. only the room you're in and adjacent rooms get rendered. We also tried to minimize the amount of different materials for everything.

The first thing we did when we started the development was trying to find out how big the virtual rooms should be. Several hours went into discussions if the walls are too near or too far away, if the ceiling is too low, or if the texture scale on the floor is okay. Probably not everything makes sense in the final game; some things were kept for the atmosphere. Especially the lighting was a bit of a headache, until we went with strong darkness and the player having a point light at their center. Every ghost has two lights - on for his current position, and one for the target position. This way, a player can predict if the ghost soon will be floating towards them. And from time to time a lightning strikes (even when there's no window), so there should be enough to see anyway.

Of course we had some help! When he wasn't sleeping Björn Grunewald created some 3D models like the loot, and my brother Ludwig 'KingLudi' Hanisch - as usual - agreed to compose the music. Ludwig was in another city, and when I sent him some screenshots it was very late, so I wasn't sure if he was still willing to do it. But he sent a nice track in time. Afterwards he wasn't content with it, as it didn't quite play along with the visuals. The problem was that Jana and I were late in defining the atmosphere and couldn't send him a meaningful video, so he only had the screenshots with bad lighting as reference. A few days later Ludwig sent us a new, much more eerie track which fit perfectly, and I updated the game. You can play this new and better version by downloading the APK on itch.io.

Overall the Global Game Jam was cool; you might also want to have a look at the other games created at our site in Leipzig. By the way, one aspect I learned to dislike about the GGJ website is that you cannot edit your entry afterwards. I understand that they wouldn't want people to fake their entries, but it would be nice to be able to offer patches, or just add stuff you forgot.

We also might choose to register a jam site in our own city next year, because we found some potential co-jammers!

> Try Hands Off Thief here! <

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IndieGameStand Sale – Pitman and TRI

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IndieGameStand is a cool platform where every four days another indie game is presented to you, with a drastly reduced price. As a developer you have the total control of the content presented on this sale page. The main game is Pay-What-You-Want, while players get extra content for beating the average prize. And if you spend  $10 you can even get the last, current and next game!

From July, 19th - 22nd you can get Pitman and TRI!

1. PAY WHAT YOU WANT - Pitman

Pitman is a boardgame-style rogue-like. Initially made for the "Seven Day Roguelike Challenge" the game got a complete overhaul. Pitman will let you die a thousand deaths ... and make your survival especially satisfying!

Features:

  • RPG - create the hero you want, like a dwarven sorcerer or a powerful warrior
  • turnbased - for a tactical course of action
  • 3D boardgame style - build the world while playing
  • randombased - no game will be like the one before

Reviews:

"Great! - An overlooked game with great feel and atmosphere. Very replayable too."
- Scarfoo, App Store Slovenia

"Good music, new concept of dungeon generation, good atmosphere. Definitely recommend to any fans of rogue-likes."
- raensi, Desura

"There is enormous potential here. I spent half the night playing Pitman when I should been sleeping."
- funambolist, Touch Arcade

"Get this Game!I know what I'm going to be doing for the next couple weeks..."
- Fools08, App Store US

2. BEAT THE AVERAGE - Pitman Android + TRI + Rat King Soundtrack

Features of TRI:

  • freeform 3D platformer with an emphasis on atmosphere and exploration
  • build triangles to overcome abysses, reach unknown places, and walk on the walls and the ceiling
  • control light rays and destroy obstacles with dangerous lasers
  • explore the strange worlds of TRI, collect treasures and solve puzzles

Reviews:

"You could just make your own platforms and climb up, and I feared the game would lose the sentiment – that feeling – that the first level really nailed for me. Luckily, it did actually manage to keep hold of it, and by the time I got around to Level 5, Labyrinths I believe it’s called, I was sitting right back in my seat with my brain just baking in the pleasure the intricate level design and mysterious criss-crossing architecture was pumping out at me."
- Chris Priestman, Indiestatik
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Like every indie sale, this one does have the charity aspect as well. In the first place we chose a local historic building we visit quite often in our free time, called the Peißnitzhaus. The people there try to restore it and also have a very family-friendly beer garden running.  Unfortunately they were badly affected by the flood in June, and thus need additional money.
But to have a known and more important NGO, we chose to have Greenpeace instead. We are glad to support an organization like Greenpeace that taught us the importance to fight Monsanto, save whales and dolphins or their current campaign to save the arctic from oil exploitation. We are super-happy and proud to pledge parts of the money that we raise - with your help, of course, to Greenpeace via IndieGameStand.

PS: Buy our games!

PPS: Update! 900 people bought our games and paid $1,939.21 - i.e., $2.15 average! Awesome!

Status Update: Flood, TRI, Android

We neglected to write about TRI and us for a bit too long time now – with a reason. Perhaps you heard about it, but there recently was severe high-water in many places of Germany and other countries. As there were record water levels in a lot of rivers this time, and as we live right between two arms of the Saale, water came to our house pretty determined. Luckily the flood didn't reach our own door, but half a meter more and we probably would have needed to wipe disgusting dirty stains from the floor and our furniture.

Flood

Flood

As we couldn't reach our home for several days and also didn't have any electricity and warm water for over two weeks, we had to pause all development for a while and do some imposed vacation. Some other not so positive things happened, too, but those I don't want to explain further – I guess it suffices to say that health problems are bad, everywhere and always.

This all leads to sad news: the upcoming update for TRI probably needs some more time, again. Money will be running dry in the near future, and we have again once to do paid assignments (by the way, if you happen to know anyone who wants to have a game or 3D characters made, send them our way ;-)).

The following screenshots show one of the level that will be in the next update of TRI, introducing the actual reflection of light rays:

Light Rays Level

But on the happier side of this status update, TRI is now also available on GamersGate. Just so you know we're still eager to finish this game!

TRI on GamersGate!

Additionally, some time ago we got the Android plugin for Unity3D and in the last days I finally came around to actually port some of our games. To be exact, the apps we already made for iOS, the role-playing game Pitman and the puzzle game Tumblox, are playable now on your Android device, as well two of my jam games, Double Rogue and HATESNAKE3D. The latter one is also free to play for everyone on Kongregate!

So if you need your fix of rogue-like, puzzle or insane arcade action on a mobile device, we might have something up our sleeves. :-)

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