Resolution: First Demo

I’ve managed to find a few hours to play with both Unity and the wonderful (in my unskilled hands anyway) Pyxel Edit so have made a start on my January OGAM entry for Resolution. Non playable at the moment, just demoing animations, variable speed treadmills, working HUD meters and spawning of random pickups. Looks fun doesn’t it! No? Fine … see if I care.

 

One Game A Month

I already know 2015 is going to be a busy year. I should have a new house to play in, with all the associated DIY and building work that will come with it. Work isn’t going to get any easier so will either kill me or drive me into a change of jobs, neither of which option is going to result in me being rested and having an abundance of free time. I’m already signed up for at least one comic con for which I’ll need to get my cosplay sorted. I’ve also got quite a few weddings and stags coming up this year. All that doesn’t leave a lot of time to focus on realising my pages of scribbled notes and game ideas, so there’s only one thing for it: I need to set myself an unattainable target! One Game A Month seems like the perfect target to follow. Someone else can manage the tracking and goal settings, and I can sit back and fail to hit any of the deadlines!
Seriously though, it’s a good framework to get myself to put some effort into working on some game development. Every month there’s a new theme to work to, which should help me to branch out or inspire some new challenges. Even if I do the minimum for a given month – create a tech demo or follow a game tutorial that fits the theme – it’ll help improve my game dev skills. I will make one prediction now – September is going to be mega-busy so I expect to be missing that deadline!
The first theme word for 2015 is “Resolution”. I’ve got an idea in mind for a small mini-game about weight loss so let the games(dev) begin!

 

Kickstarter Addiction

Kickstarter Running Spend

Kickstarter Running Total Spend

If my luck holds, I’m going to be moving house in the new year. As I have a bit of a Kickstarter addiction, this seemed like a good time to go back over my open pledges to work out where things are now and what needs an address update for delivery. My first Kickstarter pledge was back in August 2011 and since then I’ve been a regular backer of projects. In 2013 I went a bit out of control and spent a large chunk of cash on projects, a little under 2% of my income, and since then I’ve tried to restrict my pledging and have fallen back to a nice manageable rate. It may seem like I don’t really care about the projects I’m backing if I need to have a concerted effort to look back over them now, but that’s because I approach each project differently. A lot of game projects get ignored because I both don’t have the time to play the betas, and don’t want any spoilers for games with a strong story. On the other hand, some of them (TinyKeep for example) drew me in with interesting regular updates on the development process so have kept my interest.
On the whole I’ve been happy with the Kickstarter experience. Very few projects have actually failed to deliver, even if some of them are horribly delayed. There have also been some resounding successes in the shape of projects like Shadowrun Returns and Wasteland 2, as well as some products that have become daily drivers for me like the Pebble smartwatch.
I don’t think I’m going to be losing the addiction any time soon, but I’m certainly refining what I’m willing to back in the face of failures of some early access games. That and a much larger mortgage I need to satisfy!

 

EGX 2014

Yesterday I trudged along to EGX after four days at Oktoberfest in Munich. That was a terrible idea – flashing lights, crowds, and motion have not helped my recovery. I was also somewhat puzzled by the lack of lederhosen. Regardless of my ability to absorb what was going on, I had long since gone off the main show at EGX. Increasingly it’s made up from large name booths with massive queues and no windows into them. I’m not keen on hanging around in line ten times a day, and I really don’t see why they can’t let people peer in to watch those who are hands on. UbiSoft have done many things wrong in their time, but at least they set things up so punters can spectate while others play. Anyhow, I made my way through the main section pretty rapidly to get to what I considered the main attractions: Rezzed and The Leftfield Collection. It’s great to be able to walk amongst the games, chatting to the devs and getting to play some games I might otherwise never get a chance to experience. Some of the games on show I was already looking forward to (Heat Signature) and some I’ve played already from their Kickstarters (TinyKeep). In addition to those, I’ve now walked away with a list of more games to add to the ever-growing backlog. … 

 

Watch_Dogs: Game or Prototype?

I upgraded my keyboard last month and got a copy of Watch_Dogs with it as part of a Razer promotion.  In no way did this bonus influence my purchasing decision;  I’d heard pretty bad things about the PC release of Watch_Dogs.  By all accounts the game has ropey PC performance, a story that’s far from engaging and very restrictive missions for a supposedly open world game.  Still, this was meant to be one of the big releases of the year so I felt I should give it a fair go, especially with no GTA V PC in sight.  This, in hindsight, was a mistake.  I should’ve left well alone.  All I had heard was true, but even worse there wasn’t even a good game underlying everything.  Instead I found what seemed like a constant disregard for the player, like the designers had been playing with prototypes for new functionality without actually playtesting it from the perspective of the gamer. … 

 

London Film & Comic Con (LFCC) 2014

It’s been very quiet here for a while, and that’s mostly because I’ve been preparing cosplay for London Film & Comic Con 2014.  Photos I’ve collected so far are in the gallery below.  I had a different costume for each day: Barf, Jayne Cobb and Obi-Wan.  It was an exhausting weekend, especially given how poorly ShowMasters ran this year’s convention.  Still, I had a great time meeting other cosplayers, stars and friends.  Now it’s over I can try to catch up on life – I’ve got a few progress photos from some of my costume creations so I’ll write up a post at some point on those.

Oh, and I was featured on BuzzFeed!

 

The Problem with Motion and Touch Controls

The recent announcement by Microsoft that they will be selling the Xbox One without the bundled Kinect has sparked mixed reactions from critics and developers.  From my perspective, Microsoft seem to be accepting something that I’ve been thinking about for a while – the problems with waggle and touch controls for gaming (which I’ll collectively refer to as “waveprod” from here on).

I should point out at this juncture that I think both motion tracking technology and modern capacitive touch screens are amazing advancements in consumer tech.  I attended a lecture by Professor Chris Bishop a couple of years ago on the science behind Kinect and it’s truly fascinating stuff.  The thing is, a lot of his own enthusiasm for the product seemed to come from applications outside of gaming, such as helping doctors control interfaces in sterile environments.

I’m also not trying to say that these types of interface have no place in the gaming world.  There have been some excellent applications of the technologies thus far, and I’ll touch on how some of these implementations overcome the issues with waveprod.  Unfortunately there are also some oft repeated mistakes made with waveprod implementations in games, quite often as a result of lazy porting of an aspect of game design to mobile platforms.  I’m going to touch on two different sides of the waveprod problem – the connection to the game, and the connection to the player. … 

 

AFK

That went well!  Already missed a weekly post.  Unfortunately I was overseas for work last week and didn’t have time to write anything.   I did manage to think of a couple of topics to write up though, so a post should be forthcoming soon.

 

Florence

I just returned from an excellent long weekend in Florence.  My main reason for visiting was a wedding (the resultant hangover somewhat re-shortening the weekend) but I took the opportunity to grab a few extra days tourism time while I was over there.  It also proved a great way to get some practice with photo spheres!  It’s possible, however, I was using this to stop myself spotting places from Assassin’s Creed 2.

Florence is great for a quick visit – the main part of the city isn’t that large and so it’s very easy to navigate on foot and see the sights.  Much like Rome, Florence is a beautiful place to just wander around in.  The old architecture, endless churches and statues can all be absorbed at your leisure, with plenty of little cafes and shops to take a break along the way.  Apparently Florence is the birth place of gelato, so it’s a given that you have to tuck in while you’re there.  I just missed the 2014 Gelato Festival but I understand it’s an annual event so well worth keeping an eye out for!

My base for the weekend was the Grand Hotel Cavour.  There are a number of central hotels in Florence.  I found the Cavour very welcoming and comfortable.  It’s just down from Il Duomo, and I could see the bell-tower from my window.  It also has a roof bar with a spectacular view of the Duomo and the landscape surrounding Florence.

If you want to go into the many museums of Florence then you really need to plan ahead.  The Uffizi (full of magnificent paintings) and the Galleria Academia (home of David) both offer pre-booking and it’s really a necessity to do so well in advance.  You can buy tickets on the day from touts, but they sell out fast and are considerably more expensive.  You should also expect massive queues for entry; you may be given an entry time on your ticket but it’s only indicative.  You can pre-book online, but if you want to organise tickets once in Florence then I can recommend going to this ticket office.  It’s tucked out of the way and seldom seemed to have queues.

Queues for the Duomo vary throughout the day.  I found they died down over lunchtime.  You can get into the main cathedral for free, then buy a ticket to climb the dome and bell-tower, as well as visiting the museum and Bapistry (all on one ticket).  I’d recommend heading up the bell-tower early in your stay.  It’ll help you get the lay of the land quite quickly – you soon find you navigate your way around Florence using tall landmarks like the Duomo to orient yourself.

View South From Duomo

I should finish by mentioning the wedding.  It was in a beautiful setting – Castello Di Vineigliata, Fiesole.  It’s a castle at the top of a hill outside Florence, nestled between a wonderful landscape of olive fields.  The castle is beautiful and, while I understand the happy couple had to go to great organisational efforts, it’s a splendid venue for such a celebration.

Castello Di Vincigliata Outside

[Footnote : I’m aware the photo spheres and layout of this post are a bit messed up.  I need to spend some time re-tuning this blog and have a look at all the plugins and themes.  I’m hoping I’ll get some time to do so next week when I’m travelling again for work]

 

 

 

A Personal Retrospective

So 2013 was interesting. I bought a flat and then, due to temporary insanity, decided to renovate it while living in it. When I say renovate, I don’t mean just tiling the bathroom (actually still planning to do that) – this was knocking down walls, moving kitchens, and installing new central heating. All while living in one front room. Yep, occasionally I may have lost it a bit.