Month: February 2014

I Can’t Hear You

A [computer] game is not a great game unless it has music and/or sound effects, I think we can agree on that one. Even though it might be important to be able to mute the game immediately.

Business as usual nowadays: you whip up a short document and call it a “specification”, and then you e-mail 6-7 completely unknown people and ask them for a quote. The list of persons you gathered primarily from social media using only half a hunch and a gut feeling.

This is what I did to get someone to do the audio part for Oggipital. And not a bad process: in about 2 weeks I had great samples in my inbox and after some thought and review with a bunch of people, I picked one and we managed to get a great deal – I’m getting all the music and sound FX for Oggipital, and he is getting nice, cold, cash for it. Good old business.

It’s funny how deals like this are made nowadays without even talking to the person, live. An old-fashioned person would probably cringe and think of all the possibilities to get screwed. After all, how much do you know about the other party who might be on a whole another continent, even? But then again, you kinda do not know the person, but internet kinda gives you a lot of information about the person. A nice web page, great Twitter reputation, and so on.

Well, this is actually yet another great side of indie game development. Being two small companies, or even just persons, working on exactly what they want to work on, paves for easy contracts. The possible contractual problems or issues become secondary as both parties only aim to build something great. Even monetary compensations become secondary especially at build time – but there’s naturally the hope that monetary compensation comes in all abundance when the game is finished.

Quite the contrary to, say, corporate salesmen who only do it for the commission, you know, shitty salesmen. There are theories on how monetary commissions (bonuses) are actually bad in most business transactions, and all this audio contract making made me think of this. I can see how small businesses get their upper hand on big corporates by building on exactly these situations – starting small, building on the will of people wanting to do great things because of the will to do, not a secondary compensation. You get a different kind of commitment from such persons.

Anyway, I think I digressed a bit there. It’s Ryan Davies who’s producing the audio for me – an overall great guy, but stay away – he’s mine for the foreseeable future! 😉

Learning To Teach

As I mentioned in the last blog post, I’ve come to realize one really needs to teach one’s customers to use the product. For the last week the tutorial portion of Oggipital has been under construction, and right now it is somewhere between first draft and final implementation. It still lacks the final art, but looking good enough to be used. I want to get one part implemented still, the “Level Up”.

I’ve been quite secretive about the game – not on purpose, though. There’s just not that much to show each Screenshot Saturday in a game with static screens. But as more and more features gets finalized, I will post more and more information about the game here. And I’ve heard Vine is the latest dogs bollocks in social media marketing for indie game developers, so here’s a taste of the tutorial system, revealing a whopping six seconds of the game play idea!

Yes, the video is supposed to loop indefinitely on a 6 second clip in that quality.

Feedback, Schmeedback

“That’s a great milestone!” someone replied to me on Twitter when I was making the announcement of Oggipital, and mentioned it went into beta testing at the same time. Well, beta and beta. Very early beta. But who cares about the wordings of development phases in a small indie game studio anyway.

It is, of course, a great milestone. WIth the announcement and distribution of the game to outside players, it’s kind of the point of no return. If I back out of this NOW…that’ll be embarrassing . Actually, it wouldn’t be in normal circumstances, but my intention is to be – become – a game developer full-time, and for the time well into the future. Plus, my motto is to make games I want to play, so it would be silly to not develop such a game. When I already started to.

But apart from a great milestone it’s a very stressful situation, too. Maybe it is just because it’s my first game announcement, but I had that awful nagging feeling for a full three-four days and nights, “what if this is complete crap, what if I have a really bad bug in there for the testers?”. Even though one should just take it easy and announce games early on and take the feedback from the audience – be it a closed test group, Twitter, or readers of a blog – as constructive criticism, humans seldom work like this. So it’s pretty nerve-wracking to wait for the first real feedback on a game.

Thank Darwin I started the testing with external people. In retrospect I should have done it earlier but I always feel like I need to have some parts of the game near final before I do it. In this case it was the core game mechanics. I closed some serious bugs the last week before beta and did some very needed adjustments to the core mechanics.

And I got immediate and good feedback – first, I was naturally like “screw this!”, but it didn’t take me many hours to see what needs to be done, and then I was back in the creative loop I so love about game development. The feedback was unanimous: the game’s impossible to comprehend without a wayyy clearer way to show beginners how it’s done. And it’s correct – the game has rules which are not logically derivable. Even if there aren’t many rules, not getting the main ones will result in complete player frustration. By “not derivable” I mean rules like “you must cut like this, but you cannot cut like that”, and the “cannot” being just due to a rule I made up, one that you cannot visually spot in the game.

I had only first-revision help pages in the game, available only in-play behind a “?” button. Pushed by the feedback of my testers, I am now implementing an active/interactive tutorial, which is offered as the first thing a new player should do before playing a real round. In addition to being really fun to implement, it teaches me also a way of looking at the game, and gives a fresh view on the gameplay. AND I get really accustomed to Cocos2D animation functions. 🙂

I’m working with draft art on the tutorial still, but for the sake of Screenshot Saturday, enjoy this complimentary shot of the tutorial. It’s on the house!

Please pay attention. You there, in the back row! Rought night, last night, eh?