My time at the ROM and Gamercamp 2013 – Part 2 [Updated 11/19/2013]

UPDATE 11/19/2013 – For some bizarre reason, I linked “Samegame” in the description of Pyramid Party to the Wikipedia article “Banshee” instead of “Samegame”. That has been fixed. Also, I totally left out one Gamercamp Official selection: A Fishing Game with Actual Water. You can now read about it at the bottom of this post.

Last time, I talked about my experiences playtesting Rise & Fall at both the Royal Ontario Museum and Gamercamp. In this post, I’ll talk about some of the other games that were featured at the two events. Sorry for the lack of pictures; all the ones I took didn’t do these games justice.

First off, I’ll describe some of the other ROM Game Jam games. Unfortunately, I forgot to make note of the teams’ names that made the following games.

Pyramid Party

Sort of like a cross between Wario’s Woods and Samegame. (Note: you’ll be seeing me use these fusion-of-two-games comparisons a lot in this post.) One or two players each take control of a pharaoh who run and jump around a SameGame-like playfield to give commands to their workers to run, jump and move blocks around. When four or more blocks of the same color are joined together in any way, they become fixed brown blocks that fall and acculmulate at the bottom of the playfield, while the blocks below them bubble their way to the top of the stack(s). The goal of the game is for the player(s) must build as much of a specific structure (shown before the start of each level) on the playfield out of brown blocks before time runs out. Each level has it’s own specific structure and quota that must be met.

This game is quite addicting and also difficult if you don’t have some sort of strategy planned out.

Relic Ravage

A multiplayer competitive platformer for up to four players that’s divided into two stages. In the first stage, players play as warriors who must fight and defeat each other to score points. When a player is killed, they drop an artifact where they died. After a time limit, the first stage ends and the game builds a pyramid on top of all the dropped artifacts. In the second round, the players play as archaeologists/treasure hunters who must dig into the pyramid to collect artifacts and other treasures and bring them back to a pack mule for points, the artifacts dropped in the first round being worth the most. After a second time limit, whoever has the most points is the winner.

What really made this game special is the enthusiasm of the dev team behind this game when there were playing it with the patrons of Gamercamp.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Afterlife

A trivia game that’s pretty much exactly what it say on the tin. You play a recently-deceased character who has to navigate the underworld while answering trivia questions from Anubis and Set, the latter being fond of trick questions. When you answer a question correctly, the weight of your character’s heart decreases, and conversely, an incorrect answer make your heart heavier. At the end of the game, you meet Osiris and he weighs your heart against a feather (as per the myth). You win the game if your heart is lighter than the feather, otherwise, you get a bad ending.

Next up, here are some of the games from the Gamercamp official selection that really caught my attention. I have also provided links to the games’ and developers’ websites.

Toto Temple – Juicy Beast

A multiplayer competitive platformer (these seem very popular) made during TOJam 8. Players scramble to grab and hold on to a goat. The player with the goat continuously accumulates points for possessing it. The longer the player holds on to the goat, the more points it generates. The other players can (and should) use a dash attack to steal the goat. When the goat is stolen from one player to another, it lays a bunch of eggs that hatch into coins which provide a secondary source of points. The game ends when one player reaches 3000 points.

The game got pretty frantic when I played it with three other people, with the goat exchanging hands very frequently. I also learned quickly that grabbing as many coins as possible helps with maintaining your current rank even if you can’t hold on to the goat for very long. The game also has a very polished look and a colourful cartoony art style.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had played another game, Knightmare Tower, by the same developers before. Small world.

STARWHAL: Just the Tip – Breakfall

A very neon and somewhat surreal multiplayer game where players take control of technicoloured narwhals and must stab the other players’ hearts with the tips of their tusks to defeat them. The last narwhal standing wins. When a narwhal’s tusk tip gets close to an opponent’s heart, the game goes into slow-motion, allowing the players to fine-tune their strikes/dodges, and allows both players and the audience to clearly see what lead to the successful strike or dodge.

The narwhals seem to be programmed to be difficult to control. Even though I had played this game before online and knew the controls, more often than not, my narwhal ungracefully flopped and flailed around the low-gravity arena as I tried to skewer my opponents. However, this is what makes the game interesting; it adds unpredictability, excitement and silliness to the gameplay, which led me to play it over and over again.

I’ve played this game before at the Bit Bazaar at Bento Miso back in May. I’ve even posted about itLovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a two-player co-op game were both players operate a Death Star-esque spaceship to defeat enemies and rescue planets from invasions. The catch is the two players don’t control the ship directly, rather they control the two-member crew inside the ship. The control consoles for each of the ship’s systems (turrets, shield, thruster and laser) are spread throughout the ship, so the players must navigate through the ship’s corridors and ladders to switch between them. Some new things I experienced are powerups that boost the abilities of the ship’s systems and a boss battle. One last thing I want to mention is that this game has infected me with the “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” earworm.

Crypt of the Necrodancer Brace Yourself Games

A fusion of the music and the roguelike genres, Crypt of the Necrodancer is, well, a roguelike that is controlled by a dance pad and has the timing of its turns synced to the beat of the background music. I didn’t play it myself, as my experience with dance pads and roguelikes are rather limited; I only saw oither people play it. In any case, the game has a very polished pixelated art style and detailed animations. One of my team members kept commenting on how the enemies all danced as they moved around the dungeon. The music sounded pretty good, even though it was a bit hard to listen to carefully as a spectator.

Huskerball KPD Games

I would describe Huskerball as a cross between soccer and Mighty Milky Way. Up to four players each control a spaceship in a large arena. The spaceships adhere to and move along the curved walls and obstacles in the arena. The ships are also launch themselves away perpendicular from the surfaces of these objects. Each player also has a goal area, and in the middle of the arena there is a ball. Using Newton’s Third Law of Motion, players must push the ball into their own goals to score points. First to five points wins. Maybe it’s because I’ve played Mighty Milky Way, but I got used to the controls very quickly, though the four-player match I played and won was mostly due to dumb luck. 😛 

A parody of Cold War-era spy movies and old comedy movies, Jazzpunk is an open-world adventure game set in an alternate, postmodern, tongue-in-cheek Cold War world. I didn’t play the game for long, but from what I gathered I was send on a mission to infiltrate some building. However, I spent most of my time interacting with the environment and NPCs, reading the game’s humourous script. It seems that there are puzzles you need to solve to progress through the mission (I only solved one) and a few sidequests you can do as well. I would definitely want to continue playing the game once it comes out. Shut up and take my money!

A Fishing Game with Actual WaterFrancis “narF” Sheridan Paré

Another self-descriptive game for one or two players. At the bottom of the screen, each player will see three bowls in their colour; from the top of the screen, various fish fall downwards towards the bowls. The players must “activate” a bowl when a fish is on top of it in order to catch it and score points. Seems like a simple game, so what’s the catch? The answer: controllers that are made up of of three physical bowls of water. To activate a bowl, you must physical put your hand into the water, as if you were trying to catch the fish while it was inside of it. The goal of the game is to get as many points as you can.

The pace of the game is slow at first, but get much faster near the end, to the point where water get splashed everywhere. That’s probably why the developer covered the monitor with clear plastic and the developer himself wore a raincoat.

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

My time at the ROM and Gamercamp 2013 – Part 1

In these past few weeks my team and I have been showing off our ROM Game Jam game, Rise & Fall, to public audiences at the Royal Ontario Museum and Gamercamp 2013. I wanted to write about my full experience at both of these sessions in this post, but it got really long. Therefore, I decided to break it up into multiple parts to be posted over the next week or so. In this first part, I’ll talk about my experiences with the playtesting of Rise & Fall

If you been to this blog before, then you know the deal with Rise & Fall. If not, click here and read. I’ll wait for you to finish.

Done? OK. The game was first playtested as part of the Ancient Arcade at the ROM for International Archaeology Day (October 19). Our game was displayed on a large monitor and played with two controllers.

As you can see from the picture directly above, I only had one Xbox 360 controller, so I had to use an old Logitech controller as the second one. Unfortunately, it was so old that the game didn’t detect it automatically; I had to use Joy2Key to make it work. Another unfortunate thing was I didn’t bring my male-to-male 3.5mm audio cable to connect my laptop’s headphone jack to the display’s PC Audio In jack (to be fair, I didn’t even know the display had one of those), so I had to turn my laptop towards the players (from behind the display) and crank up the volume to maximum. Even then, the tiny speakers on the laptop couldn’t overpower the ambient noise of the crowds at the museum. The only fortunate thing that happened that day was the discovery of a VGA input port on the display. My laptop, being 5 years old, doesn’t have HDMI output (which would have also fixed the audio problem), only VGA.

The game generally received positive feedback from those who played it (especially from the kids) and some even suggested improvements that could be made. There was one kid in his group of friends that managed to quickly figure out the optimal strategy (read: exploit) of the game and remained undefeated. Later during the day, another gentleman found the same strategy exploit and won a lot of games. One player noted that the game favoured the player who was further ahead, since that player’s artifacts would provide ample cover and making it very difficult for the other player to hit them.

Taking those into consideration, we moved and changed the properties of some of the artifacts to balance the game before we showed the game at Gamercamp. We also added a fifth artifact on each side that don’t serve as platforms or cover, but as an indicator that one side has won. This changed the objective from:

“Defeat your opponent to restore all your artifacts then defeat your opponent once more.”


“Defeat your opponent to restore all your artifacts.”

which to me is much less confusing (and less explaining on my part).

The setup for “debut” of Rise & Fall at the Gamercamp Ancient Arcade (November 2-3) was largely the same as the setup at the ROM, except I bought and brought an additional Xbox 360 controller so both players had the same controller to play with and I brought my audio cable, hoping that they would be using the same type of displays as last time, which they did. Even with the audio coming from the display this time, it was still hard to hear the audio amidst the crowd and other games’ audio. Oh well, at least I tried.

Not everyone who played the game gave feedback, but those who did gave positive feedback. Kids seemed to be the most excited of all the playtesters (that’s not to say they weren’t any adult that weren’t excited). We had to compete for attention with the games that were part of the Gamercamp Official Selections, which were being showcased in the same space opposite of the Ancient Arcade games. They had way more time to be polished, so it was a bit intimidating, but overall I think we did pretty well out there.

I would like to thank my team members Shmuggly and Goombaguy for helping me helping people learn to play our game at both the ROM and Gamercamp. The next public showing of Rise & Fall is tentatively scheduled for December 6th at the ROM again. We hope to be there again to show off our game some more.

In my next post, I will be writing about the other games at Gamercamp in the following days. Stay tuned to this blog.

(Terrible photography provided by Quadolor Games. With over 2 weeks of experience, DON’T rely on Quadolor Games for your photographic needs.)

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

You’re going to make a public spectacle of yourself.

After some thought and playtesting of the co-op mode, I decided to move the beta release of Gonna Catcha ahead of schedule.  I feel the game is stable and complete enough to be playtested by a wider audience. The things I planned to do before I wanted to release the beta has now been moved to the “Beta → Release Candidate” list. What does that mean? Nothing really. Development will continue as it was before, it’s just that there won’t be a high score table or attract mode in the beta right away. Technicalities, blah blah blah. However, before I do release the beta, I do need to do a little bit of tidying and housekeeping to get the game ready (i.e. write documentation and make the interface a bit more user-friendly). Stay tuned to this blog for more information and a special TV offer! (Wait, no.)

Not to leave you empty-handed, here’s a screenshot of the title screen:

Wait, do you even know how to write that on paper?

Gasp! It has a proper title in it now! After many changes and revisions, I’ve settled on “導魂使隊” as the Chinese-character title for Gonna Catcha. “導魂使隊” translates to, or at least what I want it to translate to, “team of spirit-guiding emissaries” or “team of psychopomp emissaries”.

In related and coincidental news, Rise & Fall will also be making its public debut at the “ROM Game Jam: Ancient Arcade” event at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on October 19, as part of International Archaeology Day. My team and I will be there from 1PM-3PM. So if you happen to be going to the ROM that day, feel free to drop by. This will be the first of a handful of planned appearances by Rise & Fall at a public event. Stay tuned to the blog for more information and we’ll double your order absolutely free! Just pay shipping and handling. (Nah.)

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

Two-player action!

This week, I switched gears and went back to mainly working on Gonna Catcha, in particular the co-op mode. Things have been more difficult than I imagined. You’d think that with a game that screams “CO-OP GAMEPLAY!!! (Oh, and you can play solo too.)” I would have designed and coded the co-op part first or at least made the single-player mode in a way that would be easily expanded to co-op gameplay.

Well apparently I didn’t.

For the sake of simplicity, I designed and coded many of the features in the game around the single-player mode. It turned out that the code was so intimate with the single-player mode that it made coding the co-op mode difficult. To give you an idea of what I had to do, I pretty much had to tear out the code for various features from the game, smack the co-op version of that code onto them, then shove them back into the game. The results seem to be working so far, aside from a few hiccups:

But now the code design isn’t as pretty. Oh well, so much for my idealism.  It probably won’t matter in the end; I don’t think Gonna Catcha is resource-intensive enough for a few pieces of unoptimized code to have any impact on the performance of the game. When the co-op mode is working properly (for the most part), I’ll upload a video it, but for now, I give you the above. 

In other news, there was some footage of a “whoopsie doodles” in the development of Rise & Fall that I forgot to upload last week. I think this is a rather common graphical glitch, but I find it amusing nonetheless:

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

Where Is That Thing You Were Working On Several Weeks Ago Now?

Okay, I’ve held off publishing this post for two days now, time to stop writing and actually do it.

(But there just this tiny little thing I want to ad-)

Nope. We’ve live. Wait, who are “we”? I’m talking to myself again. Anyway…

On this episode of Where Is That Thing You Were Working On Several Weeks Ago Now?, or W.I.T.T.Y.W.W.O.S.W.A.N.? (“Witty Woss Wan”?), we have a gander at Rise & Fall. You know, the thing I worked on as part of the team Robots Mashing Keyboards for the ROM Game Jam. (Oooh, that thing.)

Quite a few things have been added or changed since the ROM Game Jam prototype. The biggest change is the inclusion of jump-through platforms (i.e. platforms that can be passed from below but not above). The original prototype only had completely solid platforms, but to have a greater number and density of platforms in the level, my team decided that we need to have jump-through platforms as well. Seeing how something like this should be Game Programming 101, I should have learned how to do a long time ago, but never did until now. Still, I had to learn it from the source code of this demo by Bill23. Even then, it took me two attempts to get it working right. Other changes are relatively minor, such as adding mercy invincibility, or bug fixes. We will also be changing up some the graphics and adding more levels before the playtest session at the ROM on October 19.

During the development of Rise & Fall, I had encountered the weirdest glitch I’ve ever seen in all my time using GameMaker, even weirder than the ones I’ve seen while working on Gonna Catcha. Furthermore, I don’t think it was (entirely) my fault:

It looked as though GameMaker didn’t rebuild the asset cache after I deleted some objects from the project, so the game ended up drawing the wrong sprites and even creating the wrong objects (i.e. the projectiles seemed to have been replaced with experimental wall section object I had been working on). Clearing the asset cache and rebuilding the game once more fixed everything.

Speaking of Gonna Catcha, nothing visually interesting has happened with it since the last update, so no video or screenshots for you. However, I did completely overhaul how the game handles round progression, now incorporating the NPC speed multiplier I talked about last time. Alright, that another task down for Gonna Catcha, what left? I really should make a list of these things.

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

ROM Game Jam Day 3 Report – “Rise & Fall”

The ROM Game Jam is over and my team, Robots Mashing Keyboards, actually managed to create a fully-functioning game prototype by the deadline.  The fruits of our labour is Rise & Fall, a 2-player dueling action game based on two ancient cultures (which was the topic of the jam).

In Rise & Fall, one player takes the role of  Roman soldier while the other takes the role of an Egyptian soldier…
…who fight by launching projectiles at each other.  They each have four broken artifacts on their side of the arena.
If either player gets hit three times, they “die” and the opposing player gets a point. Each point half-fixes one of the player’s artifacts.  In the picture below, the pottery on the Roman (left) side is half-fixed.
When an artifact is fully repaired, it can interact with foreground objects, i.e. players are impeded by and can stand on it and it can block projectiles.
When an artifact is fully repaired for the first time, it’s name pops up on screen so you’ll know what it’s called and you can recognize it when you see it at the Royal Ontario Museum (that was their idea, by the way).
To win, a player must attain nine points: eight points for a full set of repaired artifacts…
…and the ninth point from the “coup de grâce”.
To the victor, goes his/her soldier running across the screen.
Here is a breakdown of who did what for Rise & Fall:
Idea guys (Game concept):  All of us
Pencil-, paper- & pixel-related tasks (Concept art, pixel art):  Shmuggly, Goombaguy

Computer keyboard masher (Programmer):  M.S.T.O.P.

Electronic keyboard masher (Music and sound effects):  M.S.T.O.P.
With us in spirit:  Saffy

We received lots of positive feedback from other jammers and, to my delight, the archaeologists that were helping us with the historical details of the ancient cultures we were making games about.  They all got really into it.  Also, due to all the hubbub in the room and the crappiness of my laptop speakers, the game’s music wasn’t heard very well. Here it is for you listening pleasure:

So what’s next for the game?  Well, the Royal Ontario Museum said they would like to demo all the games made at the game jam to museum patrons in October, giving us two months to work on and polish our games further.  Given the positive feedback we received, we are interested in pursuing this further. During the playtesting, we found a few bugs and gameplay balance issues that need to be ironed out, so it looks like we already have an idea on how to move forward with the project.  🙂
Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

ROM Game Jam Day 2 – So Very Tired

Oh man, today was a tiring day, I didn’t even have the extra energy to use Twitter to document my team’s process. Not to mention the confusion and delay when I was taking the subway to the ROM.  Oh well.

I was going to create another demo video of what we have so far, but then some new sprites arrived in my email and I just had to put them into the game and test them out.  It’s late and I don’t feel like re-recording and editing the video right now, so here’s a screenshot:

Roman guy vs. Egyptian guy
It’s too bad I’m not able to show you a video; the sprite animations and foreground objects are coming along nicely.  As you can see, we have a Roman guy and Egyptian guy dueling each other.  The Roman throws spears pilums (the archaeological experts at the ROM said the latter was more historically accurate) while the Egyptian shoots arrows. They fight each other to restore their own ancient culture’s artifacts for some unexplained reason and in some unexplained manner.  This has baffled and intrigued archaeologists for many minutes.  Tomorrow, we’ll finish off the rest of foreground objects, the backgrounds and whatever is left over (well, we have to since it’s the final day).

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

ROM Game Jam Day 1 – The internet wouldn’t allow it.

Normally, I wouldn’t update my blog in the wee hours of the night, but the lack of a good internet connection at the ROM Game Jam has forced me to.

So now I share with you some screenshots of the work that has been done today by me and the rest of Team “Robots Mashing Keyboards” at the jam:
First, a screenshot of an very early version of the game:


I won’t go into details right now, but let’s just say our game will be a 2-player competitive platformer.

Next is a screenshot of a later build of the game, featuring graphics for one of the two characters in the game: some Roman guy, done by team member Shmuggly.

Minimalist architecture

And finally, the highlight of the day came near the end of the day: the inclusion of the Roman guy’s running animation, also done by Shmuggly, into the game.  The initial results were hilarious:

The video doesn’t do the run cycle justice; it looks much better (and funnier) at 60 frames per second.  The background music was composed by me, hastily over the course of only a few days and still needs a bit of work.  Still, I’m actually impressed with how it turned out.  When was the last time I even did anything in 3/4 time with the harmonic minor scale?

And now I’m tired, and have to get up early tomorrow to continue jamming.  Good night everybody.

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.