CAT | Train Conductor

We just received a new advertisement for Train Conductor 2: USA made by Asher Blok, a high school student in Maranatha, Victoria.

Thanks Asher!

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We’re proud to announce that Train Conductor 2: USA is finally available for android phones! Launched in early december, the new Android version is double the size with twice the content of the iOS version. We’ve spent many months creating cool new unique content for this release. It’s the biggest update to the Train Conductor series that we’ve ever attempted. So what’s new?

Challenge Mode

Stopped Train Timer

Stopped Train Timer

The existing survival mode feels like you’re running a marathon compared to the fast paced, action packed new Challenge Mode. In Challenge you’ve got to deliver as many trains as you can in about 2 minutes. One thing we noticed about the old survival mode is that you can draw out the experience by stopping lots of trains and dealing with one a time. This is fine, and we’re leaving survival mode as it is so you can continue to play that way, but in Challenge Mode if you leave a train waiting for too long, it will signal to the train network that there’s a delay and all new trains will stop from entering the screen. This keeps it fast paced and rewards players who can “Enter the Matrix” of Train Conducting with finest of crash-avoidance skills.

If challenge mode sounds stressful to you – don’t panic! You can toy around and make mistakes without stress as you’ve now got three lives up your sleeve in Challenge Mode. We all love the new three-lives feature, and in the later challenge levels, you’ll need it!

Three Strikes

Three Strikes

Updated Game Icon

If you look at all the best icons, they feature just one element and look very clear when miniaturised. Finally I think we have a very distinctive and clear icon to represent the game, also it looks HAWT 😀

Updated Game Icon

Updated Game Icon - worthy of your home screen

New location: Chicago – the six track demon

Like Challenge Mode, Chicago is not for the fainted hearted. Players have always asked for six tracks, and here it is – it’s a demon!

During the course of a typical day on a busy city train network, there will be peaks and troughs in the flow of trains as commuters pour into the city in the morning and out again in the evening. Agent Henrik and I were trying to recreate these peak times of the train network in this new design.

We found that six tracks is at the EXTREME limit of human train conducting abilities 😀 Seven was out of control, to the point where it’s hard to target the right track because they were so close together, whilst also being hard to find the right track instinctively without having to count down from the top every time. So this is it, the maximum number of tracks we’ll ever put in a level.

Control trains across 6 tracks in Chicago

Control trains across 6 tracks in Chicago

Android Exclusive: New Train Droid gives extra points

This Android character is one cute little robot. We couldn’t resist putting her into the game. You’ll find Train Droid in Challenge Mode levels, but she can’t be everywhere at once – so keep an eye out for which level she’s in each day.

The new Droid Train

Droid Train appears in a different challenge mode each day.

Deliver Gold Trains to unlock Challenge Mode

The new Gold Train

The new Gold Train

Existing players of TC2 are thinking, “Gold Trains? They already exist!”, but what I mean is Double Awesome Super Special Gold Train, it’s just a bit long of a name. In this update there’s a new “golder” train, maybe its 24 carats? In all levels except Miami, you can deliver Gold Trains (or Gold Ghosts at night) to collect Gold Tracks, and with enough Gold Tracks you’ll unlock Challenge Mode of that level.

The Gold Trains are rare, and boy when one appears, you do not want to stuff that up!

New Nashville level art and special FX

Previously we redid the Miami art because it just wasn’t up to standard, now Nashville has also had a make over too!

We’ve also updated the colours on the ghosts. Previously, the ghosts and demons were similarly coloured (i.e. white), and users were smart to complain. It most adversely affected the Nashville level, and you can see the results of Agent Tian’s touches.

The new Nashville

The new nashville is much brighter.

Improved score screen

We always felt that the score screen didn’t really reflect your excitement each time you beat your high score – it didn’t erupt with awesome like a cream filled awesome cake. Hopefully now when you break that high score, you’ll feel like a king. We’ve also added some great feedback in-game for when you deliver that trains that puts you in the record books. But you’ll just have to play it for your-self to experience it.

New High Score!

New High Score!

Keen conductors will notice that we’ve also brought the score screen over the level. This means it takes less time for you to hit the ‘retry’ button. Some players are playing levels hundreds of times over in one session and we don’t want to waste their time jumping between screens.

Improved “Level Unlocked” Screen

Unlock a new level and be showered in awesome 😀

Just unlocked Challenge Mode!

Just unlocked Challenge Mode!

New Level Select Screen

The previous level select screen was entirely superfluous once you’d played the introduction. It really didn’t do much for you. Although I don’t think the new design is without it’s own flaws, you now have access to both modes (an unavoidable decision making step) and the introduction button is appropriately de-emphasised. Also, you don’t have to jump into a level to see the leaderboards anymore, it’s right there on the next screen.

Shiny new Level Select screen

Shiny new Level Select screen

Lite Version

Not to be forgotten. we created a whole new Lite Version that will bring the game to a wider audience. If you’re not sure if you will like connecting trains, test out the Lite Version and see what you think. It’s got the first three locations there and will keep you busy for hours. Almost all of the changes above are in there, with the exception of Challenge Mode.

Train Conductor 2 Lite

Get Train Conductor 2 Lite Today

And more!

  • Sparkles and Fireworks – New celebration for players who beat their high-score
    • When you beat your high score, you want to know about that in-game, not just at the end. Break a high score and you’ll see it, hear it, and feel it.
  • Menu backgrounds and buttons are more pretty
    • Simply, we let Agent Tian loose on the graphics, and she worked her magic.
  • Added a screen to let you know that “You finished the game!”
    • It just seemed odd that you spent so long unlocking levels, and then suddenly there were no more to unlock. At least you can feel good now that you’ve unlocked every location! (and now go collect Challenge Mode levels :D)
  • We made the sound effect and music mute buttons bigger.
  • Tutorials are shorter and more to the point.
  • All buttons are now blue.
    • This helps show what you can click, and what you can’t. There are a few minor exceptions, but the major pathways through the game are cleaned up.
  • Twitter and Facebook integration have been rewritten to improve the login and posting processes.
  • The pacing of the trains appearing in Miami has been made more interesting, less repetitive and more friendly to new users.
  • The fonts in-game throughout the HUD, menus and in-game are more consistent.
  • Numerous graphical elements were upgraded to HD.
  • Improved the induction process of welcoming the player to the game.
  • Bug fixes galore.

And this is just the latest in a long history of improvements…

This is the sixth major update to TC2. Here’s what’s been added in the past:

  • v1.5 – Massive “high definition” update, prepared the game for iPad’s big display.
  • v2.0 – Added world and friend leaderboards
  • v2.1 – Added a new level: Roswell
  • v2.2 – Added a new level: Seattle
  • v2.6 – Update for Retina Display, including the new Miami art.
  • v3.0 – Everything mentioned above!
Get it right now on the android market! (iOS users will just have to wait)

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Scary 'demon trains'!

Everyone knows when you release stuff into the wild that players will leave some pretty interesting reviews. But we have a story that I think puts the icing on the cake….

When we launched TC2 on the marketplace our first few reviews were coming in, and it looked like everyone was loving the game.
Great variety of levels.“, “Awesome visuals“, etc…

But then we got a couple of odd reviews saying the second level of the game was too scary for children.

Now, if you’ve seen the ghosts in our game, you will know they are quite cute and relatively harmless. Ghost trains provide a fun and fast paced twist on the usual ‘avoid-the-crash’ gameplay. We quickly called an emergency meeting at The Voxel Agents to think about how we could respond to this issue, and save our star rating! Meanwhile… Fans of Train Conductor were coming to our rescue.

I see nothing wrong with demon trains” – 5 Stars
I bought it for the demon trains!” – 5 Stars!
‘Demon trains’ hahaha! (…) GREAT GAME!

And finally Katie chimed in with the Gem:
I have a large preference towards games with demon trains in them. In fact they are the only type of games I will purchase. 5 out of 5 demon trains

Thank you Katie! We love demon trains too!

Check out the game for yourself and let us know what you think about the Demon Trains.
Get Train Conductor 2: USA on the Android Market

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The judges at GDC China’s Independent Games Festival have announced the winners of this years indie games competition, including Train Conductor 2: USA as “Best Mobile Game” of 2010.

IGF China Finalists

Screenshots from some of the finalists, including Train Conductor 2: USA in the center-top.

Announced as a finalist last month, Agent Simon attended the awards ceremony on behalf of the team and demonstrated Train Conductor 2: USA on the floor at GDC China in Shanghai.

Other winners included Sugar Cube by Turtle Cream of South Korea who won “Best Game”, Skillz: The DJ Game by Playpen Studios, Hong Kong, and ButaVX: Justice Fighter by Nekomura Games, Singapore.

Winner of the “Best Student Game” was The White Laboratory by Huazhong University of Science & Technology, China. Both DeadSteel (Media Design School, New Zealand) and Ponlai (National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan) picked up “Excellent Student” awards.

The Voxel Agents were joined by fellow Melbourne developer Alexander Bruce and his innovative game Hazard: The Journey of Life who was also nominated for the awards. The fact that two Melbourne based indie developers were nominated for the awards indicates the strength and vibrancy of the Australian and Victorian indie games development scene.

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Over the weekend, we attended the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Having had some time to recover from the brain-load of inspiring discussions, we thought we’d write a quick thank-you message to the organisers, the volunteers, and everyone who attended.

It’s really interesting to be part of a festival where everyone is so deeply passionate about games.  Few artistic realms have get such a rabid crew of practitioners, willing to play, think, reflect, discuss and research their passion all day, and then long into the night. It really shows how unique the games industry is, where everyone is part of a Play, Enjoy, Share, culture.  Freeplay really brought us together, it was truly amazing to see such a diverse group of like-minded people, sharing, playing and enjoying their time together.

The festival wasn’t all just fun and games though.  There was also an awards night!

Brawsome did an excellent job with his game Jolly Rover, winning Best Australian Game; and a surprise victory goes to Sword Lady & The Viking; two university students awarded Best Game Design with Up, Down, Ready. I had a chance to hang out with both at the event, and they absolutely deserve it.

Jolly Rover

Up Down Ready

We picked up Best Game Audio with Train Conductor.  Thank you Freeplay, we’ll keep the funky SFX and pumpin’ music coming in future titles. Thanks especially to Joel Joslin who writes our tunes.

Train Conductor takes home 'Best Game Audio'

Thank you to the international speakers who flew such a long way to share their thoughts with us.  A further thank you to Multimedia Victoria for funding the festival, and the Victorian Library for hosting it.  The Victorian government has done a great job of making Melbourne the ‘Games Capital’ of Australia.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a shot of the team brandishing the 2 awards (Best Game Audio, and Runner-up for Best Game Design)

The Voxel Agents

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Train Conductor 2 USA (TC2) is the best game we’ve ever made. We’re really proud of the way it looks and plays, especially when compared to the original Train Conductor. However the launch hasn’t been without issues. In fact, we’re quite embarrassed by some of the bugs that crept into the game before we submitted it to Apple.

We are really sorry that the graphics on iPad and iPhone 4 were not up to scratch. The complaints are totally warranted – we are and have always been listening. It’s completely our own fault for wanting to get the game onto iPad and iPhone 4 right away, but not having enough time to stick to our own quality standards.

Here’s how we’re planning to adress the iPad and iPhone 4 issues:

We’ve been working nights and weekends and, fortunately, we’ve been able to fix many, many bugs while giving the HD graphics a major overhaul! On both iPad and iPhone 4, all text is now crisp and hard edged, buttons are pixel-perfect, train models have increased detail, particle effects sparkle at high resolution, the HUD is cleaner.

We’re pleased to say that this major “World Leaderboards + bug fixing and graphical improvement update” was submitted to Apple just *yesterday* and it will arrive on the App Store shortly as a free update soon!

Graphical improvements in the 1.1 World Leaderboards update:

Tutorials

You're looking great Penny

Trains models

The trains sparkle in the sun!

Miami Beach

when HD and SD collide...

HUD and pillars

I score better in HD

Main Menu

Train Conductor 2: USA all crisp and clean

What’s next:

Since submitting the update we’ve continued to improve the HD iPad and iPhone 4 graphics — they will be prioritized and made better with each subsequent update. We’re really hard at work developing techniques to make better use of the screen space and to have the graphics render more cleanly on all resolutions and devices – not a simple task for the first major game to be distributed as a Universal App.

These improvements will arrive alongside new locations (such as Seattle), a bevy of achievements to keep you busy for hours, and some exciting new gameplay that we are still hush hush about.

We read every single bit of feedback that we can find. We believe in making super fun, tight experiences that feel great to play and so it means a lot to us when people aren’t happy. Here’s a list of feedback to date, and what we plan to do about it:

  • “I miss the multiplier” (Georgina, TouchArcade) – We can’t satisfy everyone on this one. There were complaints from the original game arguing that the multiplier system was too complicated. We tend to agree that it needed simplification. Ultimately though, with endless play mode that old system just couldn’t work. Your multiplier would be reaching numbers larger than human beings have ever imagined. We wanted to start with a simpler scoring mechanism, and build on it. Stay tuned.
  • “Missing the PROGRESS METER. Now we have no visual indicator of the requirement for unlocking the next area” (thespaciousmind, iTunes user review USA) – We agree that the experience points of Train Conductor Australia were a motivator. With TC2 we really wanted to focus on high scores and sharing and competing with friends. We felt that high scores didn’t receive anywhere near enough attention in the first game, yet they were a core part of the train conducting experience. We will fix this issue in a future update by giving more feedback about what you have to do to unlock the next level.
  • “I was surprised about lack of Plus as well. Perhaps they are holding off in anticipation of Game Centre?” (eugekav, TouchArcade forums) – Two reasons; first, Game Center is on it’s way and we didn’t want to have Plus+, Game Center and Facebook – it would have been a complete mess. Secondly, we wanted to integrate the leaderboards into the experience a lot better than we could with Plus+. With Achievements (a.k.a. Awards in Plus+ speak) we’ve actually got all of the important Plus+ functionality anyway. World Leaderboards will arrive in a couple days, and Achievements shortly after. What features of Plus+ you’d like to see in TC2? Let us know in the comments.

There are some big things coming, so keep your eyes peeled and your fingers ready 🙂

Please keep posting with suggested improvements, levels you liked best, questions about design decisions, etc… We plan on keeping an active conversation going so we can keep improving the game.

Thanks
TC2 Development Team

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