Spunk & Moxie

I haven’t updated this blog in forever, partially because I’m not good at that sort of thing, also because I’ve been busy, and lastly because it’s not as much a development log as it is an announcement board. Well, I have an announcement to make! The game I have been working on for the past 20 months is just about finished and now has a release trailer. Formerly known as Spuck, I am happy to present Spunk & Moxie, coming soon to mobile platforms:

Updates and Competitions and Events, Oh My!

I know it’s been forever (about a year!) since I last posted to this blog, but with GDC week now fast-approaching there hasn’t been a better time for an update. I suppose I stopped posting updates here when I joined Twitter, which was around the time of my last post… and to my credit, I’ve been pretty busy this past year with quite a few announcements to make!

But before all that, I’d like to talk briefly on GDC, which is only 3 days away! This will be my 5th year attending the conference and seeing all my old friends and hopefully a few new ones. This year I’m going to GDC courtesy of some friends at TheLoop. They’re a brand-new social networking site with some pretty cool things lined up, like a developers competition where devs can win $5,000 just for submitting their idea for a game. If they like your idea, you’re awarded another $5,000 for implementation of the app on their site. All in all, it sounds like a pretty awesome chance to win some cash and get exposure, so be sure to check it out here:

TheLoop’s Developer Competition

Anyone who’s gone to GDC knows that half of the experience is the conference itself but the real fun is all of the parties, events, and mixers that take place on and around the week of GDC. This year I’ve decided to make a thread on TIGSource to track and list all of these events for anyone who’s interested in participating. I will be updating this list with new events as they hit my radar, so be sure to keep the thread bookmarked as your go-to reference for GDC week parties and events!

GDC Week Events SuperThread!!

Other than that, I’m looking forward to posting a few more updates soon with information about exactly what it is that I’ve been working on for this past year. Hint: It has a lot to do with the last thing I posted about ;)

Spuck Bounces Back on Windows Phone 7

Not long after Spuck was dropped as a Flash game being built by Luke Arntson, my roommate Carter Randolph decided to pick up the project. Everything was re-coded in XNA using the art assets and design documents left over from the dropped project. Carter has spent the past few months working on Spuck and now it’s gotten to the point where it’s basically at the same level of functionality it was before and on top of that we have a very robust level editor being developed alongside the game.

We have registered our production company as Chocolate Homunculus and will be launching soon! Today we were accepted by Microsoft and we’re now able to run the game on the Windows Phone 7 device. No details on when the game is going to be launched yet or what it will be priced at, but we’re excited to offer our very first mobile game!

Indie Game Legend Released

After four months of development, I have finally finished and released the project I started shortly before TIGJam; The Indie Game Legend.

The Indie Game Legend, or TIGL for short, is a spiritual sequel to the NES cult-classic of a similar title- The Guardian Legend. The gameplay and themes are also very reminiscent of Guardian Legend, as you take control of a space warrior while exploring over 125 rooms spanning 5 different areas. At your disposal will be an assortment of 8 different weapons to dispatch dozens of enemies and bosses. Solve the puzzles of each area, defeat the bosses, rescue the captive indies, rinse, and repeat until you complete your challenging mission.

This game was developed specifically for the enjoyment of the TIGSource community as well as fans of The Guardian Legend, so the humor is very referential. Though, even if you don’t get the jokes you should still be able to enjoy the game on its own, and I hope you will!

Download the 21.6MB Zip

TIGJam 3

Wow, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve last posted an update since there hadn’t been notable progress made on any of my projects lately. In an effort to re-motivate and inspire myself I decided to attend TIGJam 3, which is an annual event held by TIGSource, a popular independent game development community that I frequent. This would be my first jam, too, since I had not attended the previous ones and I really had no idea what to expect. The jam was hosted at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA, courtesy of Derek Yu, Jeff Lindsay and Matthew Wegner… and of course, all of the brilliant and creative indie game developers who attended. There were special guest appearances by “indie game heroes” such as Ron Carmel of 2D Boy and Edmund McMillen of Meat Boy fame, who gave brief speeches in a feature called “What’s on my mind.” Needless to say, it was great to see a few familiar faces including the team of 2D Boy and a few friends I had made during GDC earlier this year.

In terms of my goals for TIGJam 3, I really had no plans beyond making a relatively simple, top-down arena shooter game (seen above). This game was originally influenced by the simplicity, clean readability, and fun of JW’s Super Crate Box, but it began to develop into what I would consider a spiritual successor to one of my favorite NES games of all time: The Guardian Legend. I was considering making this game a nod to the indie community by making the player’s objective to rescue notorious indie developers such as cactus, Derek Yu, Paul Eres, and Phil Fish. Though I hadn’t gotten as much done with the game at the jam as I had wanted to, I did get a lot of help on how to troubleshoot some of the problems in GML thanks to Alec (aka malec2b), who also walked me through creating an array to handle the game’s mini-map feature. Finally, I met a musician by the name of Stevie (aka hryx) who was able to produce an NES-inspired tune that was perfect for the game.

But the real highlight of TIGJam 3 for me and many others was my ‘masterpiece’ game, Madhouse, which is probably my best-known and most developed body of work. Originally, Madhouse was conceived as a local, two-player deathmatch game made with Game Maker starting in 2004 and ending in 2007. While the game was lauded by many as a “perfect” or “masterpiece” game by Game Maker standards, it remained largely obscure to the indie game scene as a whole. Since the game was meant to be played as a versus style game, the single-player mode was tacked-on as an afterthought for players who didn’t have the luxury of having a second player. Unfortunately, this single-player mode became the experience of Madhouse by many who played the game, who completely missed out on the game’s most compelling feature.

Now, in 2010, I decided to take the opportunity to get people to try out the versus mode at the jam. At first, a few people came to check it out and got into it. The next day, I found out that Randy O’Connor blogged about it at Gamasutra, which was really awesome for me to get some exposure on such a prestigious gaming site. The following night, we decided to get the remaining 20 late-night attendants of the jam to sign up for a Madhouse Tournament that was played on the projector while I gave commentary over the microphone. The tournament was a hit with many people tweeting about it and some considering it the highlight of Tigjam 3. Today, it enjoyed the honor of being my first game to be featured on TIGSource.

Overall, I am happy that this game was able to be experienced by the indie community as it was meant to be played. Now, after having met with many incredible and talented people who are willing to help out with a revised version of Madhouse, I look forward to what the future will bring.

Spuck Gets Dropped, Solipsius Improves

I received a bit of bad news this weekend. My programmer for the Spuck project, Luke Arntson, decided that he was no longer interested in continuing the project. Working a full time job and then coming home to work on a project that he had little time for just proved too much for him, and he decided that it was more work than fun. This came as devastating news to me, since the plan was to finish the level editor by the end of this month and then have the game ready to submit to a competition for $100,000 and/or publishing deal at the end of July. At this point I am looking at options for how to proceed with the project, be it finding a replacement for Luke or submitting the game “as-is”.

In other news, Solipsius has a new and improved look thanks to Mike Jasoni (see above). If you compare the new render to the old one, mine looks embarrassing by comparison. Needless to say, we’re both pretty excited about seeing this project come together, and we estimate it’s possible to have it finished within the next 3 – 4 months.

Solipsius Gets an Artist

About a week ago I was hanging out with my friend Mike Jasoni (pictured above, working hard at the luxurious desk we set him up with) who said he couldn’t wait to start working on Solipsius with me. I had asked him before if he was interested in doing the art for the game and he said yes, but nothing ever came of it so I figured he was no longer interested and I started the game on my own. Well, turns out he was still interested, which inspired me to get back into working on the project again after two months of not doing much with it.

Mike is an animation student who graduated from my school earlier this year. He knows his way around Maya and has the skill to push the graphics for Solipsius a lot further than I could. He’s taking my currently modeled scenes and revising them by tweaking the models and focusing on the texturing and lighting; both areas that I was struggling with. Once Mike’s revisions are complete, they’ll simply be dropped into the game to replace the current ones. We are brainstorming different approaches to really make the game pop visually with lighting and animation effects like tufts of grass that move subtly in the wind.

The game itself has been coming along, too. It now features a time mechanic that will allow time to pass in the game, changing between day and night, with the option of sleeping in your bed to jump to a specific hour. One of the mini-games has already been implemented into the game, and another is ready to be. As far as scenes go, I’m about 35% finished with the environment; Mike just needs to revise what I’ve done and what remains. I’ve also been spending more time focused on the sound engineering aspect of the game by featuring ambient loops and I’m even exploring the idea of using infrasound; extremely low frequency sounds that are inaudible but have psychological effects on the listener. If implemented, this will be the first known game to feature such a mechanic.

At the rate this project is going, we should be able to finish it in approximately two months, but nothing is set in stone. At the very least, we’d like to have it finished by the end of October for a Halloween release/IGF 2011 submission :) In the meantime, I look forward to posting updates of Mike’s scene revisions.

More info on Mike as well as his demo reel can be found on his website.

Sword of Legends Returns!

Since Sword of Legends was started back in late 2006, the project has seen a distinct pattern of productivity that seems to follow this convention: 3 months of high productivity, 6 months of downtime, repeat. It’s no wonder that the game has been in development for nearly 4 years now, since only a year of that time was actually spent working on the game! I think the last blow to our motivation came when our game failed to make it into this year’s IGF. (It seems like competition rejections are the recurring motif when it comes to deathblows to motivation; I noticed a drop in the productivity of Spuck when we found out it didn’t make the cut for Gamma, too.)

Across the various sites and forums where we had posted preview material for Sword of Legends, the project had an overwhelmingly positive reception. People were disappointed to hear that we were no longer working on the project and wished that we would continue it. After reading the pleas of a people in dire need for a classic role-playing adventure, I decided it was time to give the project another go. With the right amount of coaxing, I was able to get Troy (the programmer) interested in working on the project again and things have been going smoothly ever since. But of course, given the nature of this project, I say that while knocking on wood. Granted, we’re at the stage in development where most of the core systems are fully fleshed out and there really isn’t much left to do except build the content, which is the fun part.

Our current progress on the game has Troy polishing up the remaining bugs and revising the systems to end-product spec, while I clean up some of the graphics and plan out for what’s ahead. In terms of content, we’re past the “demo” section of the game, with a forest area completed and a lakeside camp/lake/cave scenario being currently worked on. The next big hurdle ahead for us is to come up with a “skeleton” system for the game’s big bosses; a setup that allows the boss monster’s body to follow and rotate accordingly to the position of the head, like a snake. Many of the big bosses in this game will need to employ this feature. We’re looking forward to introducing the first big boss; Deep Fin, a giant fish that lives in the lake. In the meantime, here’s a parody concept of what he won’t look like :)

Space Offenders

I spent the evening working on a new mini-game for Solipsius, and the result is a neat little game I like to call Space Offenders. The game itself is like reverse-Arkanoid meets Space Invaders (hence the title). I’m pretty happy with it since it only took one evening to put together and it’s functional and somewhat fun. There are a few buggy quirks, but nothing that I’m going to lose any sleep over if they aren’t fixed (after all, it is just a small part of a larger game). I did consider adding some power-ups in, but decided that they would probably take away from the challenge and old-school simplicity, so I’m leaving them out for now.

You can try out this mini-game here.

Press Enter to start, arrow keys to move, and F4 to toggle in and out of Fullscreen mode. If you play, please post your highscore as a comment! So far, no one has been able to make it past level 8, but I’m sure it’s possible with enough luck and skill!

Update

It’s been a while since my last update, and rightfully so since I recently moved and didn’t have Internet until now, so instead of making multiple posts I’m just going to try to cover everything in this one.

First off, the Blasteroid Redux project was canned because neither Luke nor I could find the time or motivation to put into it. It also seemed like a digression, since we had already laid out a solid working game with Spuck and our real goal was to finish that project. At this point, I’ve done pretty much all I can for now on my end of things and I’m just waiting for Luke to create the level editor so I can start building levels.

In my downtime, I’ve decided to start working on my own personal project on the side: Solipsius. It’s a project that I’ve had the idea for for a while now and I finally worked out a solid format for presenting it, so my productivity has been explosive so far. I want to remain vague on the details for now, because the game is really going to be about the experience, and I think that if it is executed properly it will be unlike anything the game scene has seen so far.

I will say that it’s going to be a dark, surreal point & click adventure game featuring various minigames, many of which are based off of smaller projects of mine that never really got off the ground. I’ve taken a new approach with the art style that is a departure from my usual 2D work; the game will feature atmospheric and highly-interactive pre-rendered backgrounds that the player navigates through. The title is a portmanteau of solipsism and Polybius; the former a philosophical concept that only one’s own consciousness can be known to exist, and the latter a forbidden arcade game of urban lore.

More details as development continues. In the meantime, here’s a screenshot of the first room.