Here's a little preview of a card game I'm making with game designer extraordinaire Damian Sommer!
The Indie Speed Run game jam results are in - Alphanauts goes home with the Sore Fingers award for its intense gameplay! Yay!
We're also a runner-up in the Burchatta award, which I'm guessing is just games the ISR organizers enjoyed the most! Thanks guys!
This week-end, I spent the week-end working on a double game jam game with my Neverpants buddies Technobeanie and Ian Girard, for both the Indie Speed Run and the Ludum Dare 25. The result is a little survival game called Alphanauts!
Alphanauts are trying to survive an onslaught of strange black holes long enough to scan weird, dangerous rooms.
You control all of them - up to 26 characters! Simply press and hold a letter key, then use the arrow keys to move the Alphanaut marked with that letter. You can control multiple little guys at once too!
The situation can go to hell pretty quickly - dying alphanauts form black holes too, and death will affect all the other characters on screen. Calling upon a dead character by mistake will cause painful memories to his grieving friends, plus his skeleton will rise from the darkness to attack his old teammates!
Survive as long as you can, as the black holes spread faster and more and more Alphanauts join the fray!
Letter keys (press and hold) - Control 1 or more characters
Arrow keys - Move selected character(s)
Enter - Start game
Esc - Quit to menu, Quit Game
We made this game in 48 hours, participating in the Ludum Dare 25, with the theme "You are the Villain", and in the Indie Speed Run, with the theme "Loss" and the element "Skeleton". We mixed those themes, brainstormed for a couple hours on how to make "Loss" a part of gameplay and make the player create the villain himself. We wanted to make death of characters a rough and painful thing, to represent grief - so made it so that a dying character creates a permanent obstacle, and if you use that character's letter again, you cause grief and sadness to all the other Alphanauts, slowing down your progress.
We're pretty happy with the control mechanic (press and hold a letter key then use arrow keys to move the character marked with that letter) we developed for Alphanauts. Being able to move more than one character at the same time, and making "typos" part of the game mechanic ended up working pretty well.
Some issues pop up on some keyboards - sometimes some random letters don't work well with others. For example, on my keyboard, The letters BNGH can't be mixed with others. It's weird. Anyway!
As a post-mortem kind of analysis, here's a list of features we wanted to have in the game but didn't have time, and some new thoughts that appeared on the day after uploading the game.
- Starting with 1 character and adding 2 more every level works well to introduce players to the game, but I think we could have ramped up the number of Alphanauts faster. The middle levels are a little boring and don't show off the grief mechanics fast enough, since typing mistakes are pretty rare with a low number of Alphanauts. We could have had a number that goes up like this: 1,2,4,8,16,26 so we reach the real fun faster, then raise difficulty with the other variables slowly. Or maybe the number of dudes could vary from a level to the other, say one level with 20 with a lot of space, then a level with 12 but with many more obstacles, then a level with 26 characters all bunched up in a group,
- Level variety would have helped a whole lot - Adding obstacles like blocks, walls, holes in levels would have given the game a lot more variety and would have helped add some flavor to the game - we would have themed the obstacles around the weird, alien, ancient tower that we had in mind, thus creating a better setting for the Alphascan.
- Having different Triangle sizes would have added more variety.
- The Alphascan process is not clear enough. Having the Alphanauts scan with some sort of device would help understand what's going on and how grief interrupts scanning. The maths behind the Alphascan make the game kind of unbalanced too, maybe there's a way to change the scanning to something a little simpler...
- Alphanauts should have more animation - walking, scanning, etc.
- Alphanaut variety would have been fun, different heads, different headcuts.
- An intro scene or text would have helped set the tone and tell a story.
- Balancing is far from perfect at the moment - wish we'd had more time to fix it!
- Sounds are good, but they could be better - we didn't take the time to fit sounds to animations and all that.
- Music track could be a little longer so we don't feel the loop after 10-15 levels.
- Failure and success screens are stiff - having them animated would be pretty good!
- Add a metagame. Having some sort of economic system would have given the game a stronger drive, made its goal clearer. Let's say a successful Alphascan gives you money, dispatching Alphanauts to new sectors costs money, replacing dead Alphanauts costs money, treating grieving Alphanauts could cost money too. The goal of the game could be to manage a research team with a clear goal of identifying an ancient alien race - every Alphascan would raise your Research meter or something like that. It would also add some rewards through a level - the Alphascan could show results as you're scanning a room, discovering symbols, relics, DNA samples... Each of those would give you money or progress in your research. It'd make a better gameplay loop.
We hope you enjoy playing Alphanauts - it was definitely a fun challenge to design, code, illustrate, compose and balance, but it was worth it!
If you guys love games, you should help make LA GAME SPACE possible by giving whatever you can give on their Kickstarter page. It's basically a whole building dedicated to game research, study, exhibits, conferences, residencies and events, and a lot of good will come out of it. All conferences and talks will be online for all to see, so it's not only for L.A. residents!
Now, I know not everyone will be interested in this idea, but here's where everyone should be interested in backing their Kickstarter - if you donate 15$, you get over 30 new games from experienced, awesome developers, 6 indie classics (Aquaria, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, The Basement Collection, Noitu Love 2 and Super Crate Box Xmas edition) and a brand new game by Katamari Damacy's creator, Keita Takahashi! That's an insane amount of games for a very low price. If you feel like giving more and helping out more, you can get to higher tiers and get t-shirts, posters, prints, pixel portraits and other stuff.
In short, please visit LA GAME SPACE on Kickstarter and consider giving a little bit to help out games become even better - everyone will benefit from this!
2012 is without a doubt my favorite year in gaming so far, mostly thanks to some of the biggest indie game releases ever - Fez, Journey, Spelunky, Walking Dead, Proteus... I've also been surprised by the quality and fun mechanics of some big AAA titles I never thought I would be hooked on, like XCOM and Dragon's Dogma! Then there's a bunch of iPhone titles that I brought with me everywhere - I know Kingdom Rush and 10000000, among others, kept me up late and had me arrive late to work this year!
I probably forgot a few, and clearly I haven't played everything - my backlog is getting out of control - but I feel the list shown here is mind-blowing. I needed to set this in stone, and that's why I did this quick little mosaic!
10000000 - papo & yo - half-minute hero - puzzle craft - dishonored - sound shapes - out there somewhere - xcom enemy unknown - triple town - la mulana - botanicula - diablo IiI - retrocity rampage - journey - spelunky hd - plague inc.- dustforce - fez - tobe & friends hookshot escape - borderlands 2 - spell sword - proteus - mini mix mayhem - rhythm heaven fever - puzzlejuice - quantum conundrum - tiny&big - sniper elite v2 - walking dead - the unfinished swan - dragon’s dogma - you have to win the game - kingdom rush
If you're in Montreal tonight, you gotta show up at the Prince of Arcade, where tons of games will be playable on giant screens! Come play BaraBariBall, Samurai Gunn, Panoramical and more, and get a chance to try out Greedy Piggy Chase in the Arcade Royale!
A new game making competition has begun on the TIGSource forums and the theme is SPORTS! Don't expect the usual football and hockey games from indie developers though! A month from now, we will be playing a crazy series of sports games, from the hyperviolent (Dodgefist, By the Law of Blades) to the hilarious (Limbolympic).
21 Games: 2001: A Chess Odyssey, All my balls, Avalanche Week-End, By the law of blades, Dodgefist, Dungeon Dashers, The Few, Flug GB, Gladiator School, Greedy Piggy Chase, Gunbox, Jet Lance Polo, Limbolympic, New World Songbirds, Project Netsuke, Screaming Snakeball, Sneeze Kendo, Something About Knives, The Threat, Tiny Football Manager, X-Pong Armageddon Tournament Edition
As always, click the picture to see the interactive version on Venus Patrol!
In this issue, there's a new simulation RPG called Avant-Garde about life as a painter in Paris. Yes, you read that right! Speaking of art, we get concept illustrations for Soulstrand and Burden, plus a nice fan art for The Walled Garden, and other artists showing off their shiny new art in Alienoid Core, Ritus and Aeon.
Aeon, Alienoid Core, Antharion, Avant-Garde, Burden, Eris, Hostile Takeover, Lemma, Metal Mage, Meteor Storm Escape, Ritus, Son of Nor, Soulstrand, Swamp Fever, The Walled Garden, TD Game, Under the Ocean, Unlamentia, Welcome to Bunny Land
Click on the picture to visit the article on Venus Patrol - once there you'll be able to click on the map and visit a game's thread! Woohoo!
Click the picture or click here to view the interactive version on Venus Patrol!
[Every Friday on Venus Patrol, designer Dominique 'Dom2D' Ferland presentsTIGSource DevLog Magazine, a visual guide to the newest & most interesting in-development games making the rounds on the invaluable TIGSource forums. Looking for inspiration, or just the very first look at the amazing games we'll be talking about in the future? Click any image to learn more, and come back each Friday for the latest picks!]
Don’t mind the huge creepy eyes staring at you in Environmental Station Alpha – focus on all the good stuff on the forums this week! Pixel art western The Wild West, mysterious point and click platformer The Remnant and 4-player arena party game Greedy Piggy Chase (shameless plug!) make their first appearance, while Rock Boshers DX sees a release on Playstation Mobile.
18 games: 7 Grand Steps, Anodyne, Blue Saga, Domination: Remnants of the Past, Environmental Station Alpha, Forma.8, Hellas, Kings of the Desert, Love Machine, MiniFlake, MoonMan, Nobu: Fat Revenge, Penumbear, Rock Boshers DX, Slimeful: Greedy Piggy Chase, The Remnant, The Wild West, Vertex
Since this summer, my good friend Pierre-Luc Poirier (Technobeanie) and I have been working on a game we'll call Slimeful, which is going to be awesome - but this is not the game I'll be talking about today - this is a spin-off we'll call Slimeful: Greedy Piggy Chase!
We decided to switch gears for about a month and contribute to the Mount Royal Game Society trimester game jam once again, this time with a simple multiplayer arena game. We're aiming for a fast paced, Pac Man-style party game that's all played on a large fantasy-themed map. Our buddy Ian Girard also joined the project, effectively doubling our programming army! Woot!
Up to 4 players will roll their slime around the map collecting coins. To add these coins to your score, you need to cash them in by catching the flying piggy bank(s) that's just floating about the world. Combat will consist of a simple dash move and one or two power-ups. The cool risk and reward mechanic is that getting hit makes you lose all coins you've collected but not put in the bank!
At first, the map looked pretty much exactly like a Pac-Man map. It felt wrong and lame, so I started drawing a different map...
The second mock-up is where I started thinking this was a pretty good idea - we could make a world filled with classic RPG zones like a cemetary, a castle, a forest and so on. I played around with the idea of one-way jumps too, but we quickly dismissed those.
I sent that mock-up and the design sketches (first pic) to Pierre-Luc and Ian, and they jumped on board! We were then off to a fantastic game-making adventure.
We then thought the strict grid-based movement was not necessary, so we opened up the map a little bit to have more freedom of movement. This is the first draft for a more complete map, with slow terrain (purple), dangerous terrain (red), and intermittent dangerous terrain (marked with an A) like a dragon breathing fire or something. I also started placing spawn points for coin clusters and power-ups. We're hoping to force player movement by cycling through spawn points at random during the game and by having the piggy bank fly above collision boxes.
I left for the New York Comic Con for a few days and came back to a good prototype of the game, with many of the main features integrated - controller support, 4 character movement, dash move, coins, timer, player selection screen, flying piggy... These guys did some great work there! :)
We realized the map was a little too dense, so I went and made a new one. I also added a bubble over each slime to show how many coins each slime has collected - that way players can hunt the richest!
And now we're here in the Neverpants studio, jamming our way through this game! I've started doing UI assets, I updated the map with even more breathing space and brought back the alternating damaging areas (orange). Ian and P-L have integrated a ton of new features - sword power-up, death and respawn, power-up spawn points, and so on. We got our first 4 player action on in a very early map while having pizza, and it's getting there! Yay!
We'll be posting more about Greedy Piggy Chase really soon as I develop the art for the map and start animating the slimes, coins and flying piggy.
Before we leave, here are a few sketchbook pages related to this game!