CAT | inspiration

PAX was such a great event and I loved meeting our players, especially those of you who have been supporting us for so long! You fill me with pride and excitement that we are making something worth making. Events like these get me so inspired, and they remind me why I make the games I do.

I got the chance to be part of the panel ‘Getting out of the Garage’ with a fellow devs from our oz industry. We spoke about what inspired us to get started, and what mental illness we had to let us do so. During the talk I mentioned that our inception was partially inspired by a manifesto for making iPhone games. We weren’t always the fearsome, bearded developers you know us all to be and at the time of creating the studio, it wasn’t obvious that starting a mobile games studio making original IP was such a good idea. Certainly at the time there were zero prominent examples of it working in Australia!

Matt, Tom and I (and our other friends too) had always talked about starting a studio . It wasn’t until our team won the 48 hour game making competition twice in a row, and when Pandemic closed down and I had quit Halfbrick that it just all fit together. We knew it was time to start a studio. The manifesto isn’t the reason we started, it just formed a part of the conversation. But it’s interesting to look at it in retrospect, and see that where we were coming from.

The “Manifesto for iPhone Game Development” was actually a tongue-in-cheek title to a thread I posted into a private forum my uni friends and I frequented. The “manifesto” bit was the joke. At the time the title seemed stupid. iPhone’s weren’t “gaming” devices. But I can’t take credit for thinking otherwise. I’m an unashamed Apple fanboy for almost a decade now. I was reading Roughly Drafted regularly and Daniel Eran Dilger’s ideas convinced me that there was huge economic potential in the App Store, and that the iPhone’s success seemed highly certain. Daniel Cook’s game design blog was my significant designer inspiration – especially the articles about innovation and creating new genres. The iPhone seemed to be the perfect mix of the circumstances Cook talked about for great innovation to occur.

Without further ado, here is the Manifesto as it was written back in November 2008.

The Manifesto for iPhone Game Development in 2008

  • There is no first party developer to compete with. Apple has no interest in making games. Yeah they have a Poker app, but that feels more like proof that games can exist as apps, rather than any significant attempt to become a game developer.

  • Big companies aren’t that interested yet. All the massive developers and publishers are either ignoring the market entirely, or giving it extremely little focus. The attitude is generally that the iPhone is not a serious gaming device.

  • Game developers are generally avoiding Apple products, regardless of opportunity.

  • Quality standards are easy to beat.

  • The platform lacks a defining title, and the opportunity is there for an innovative title to fill that role. Gameboy = Tetris. Famicon = Mario Brothers and Zelda. Playstation = Wipeout (to me at least). iPhone = Trism? Really? Good idea, but surely we will progress from here.

  • The iPhone is at a very early stage and innovation on the platform has barely begun – it is an exciting time to be designing iPhone games! Think of all the possibilities with a multi-touch screen, an accelerometer, an always connected internet device, a device you ALWAYS have with you, GPS, bluetooth! Each offers huge potential for new experiences!

  • Consumers expectation are at a comfortable level for indie studios; $1 – $10

  • Units sales are already considerable and sales growth is huge. Consider that the iPod sells hundreds of millions a year… well where are those iPod users likely upgrade to?

  • The approval process is relatively easy for indie developers to satisfy. Certainly better than current handhelds, and forget consoles!

When we started the company, we focused in on the multi-touch screen as our key differentiator. Ultimately though I think the always-on internet connection and “always with you” device have been the single most important aspects for innovation for game design, and even the games business. So much innovation has occurred by exploring these aspects.

In 2013 I’d it’s not so clear cut that the iPhone is the best platform for an indie studio to get started with… But that is a whole other discussion!

, , , Hide

Hey there, we’re making a game at ACMI at Federation Square. We’re going to take an earlier prototype we made in 2011 called Time Travel Treasure Hunt, and make it into a fully fledged app fit for the App Store in just 14 hours! (Meanwhile we’ve spent a year working on our upcoming title… shh). So this is going to be EXTREME GAME DEVELOPMENT. 1 year? who needs that? 48 hours? Who needs that? 14 hours? Just perfect ;P

Come say hi at ACMI and pitch in your ideas. We just had a communal brainstorming with some luverly audience members, and we’re setting up two machines for you to make art for the game and make sound effects for the game. We’re here all weekend and I’ll be live blogging as often as possible. Supposedly I’m meant to be “spruiking” the audience, but I think ACMI forgets I’m a computer nerd LOL so we’ll see how that goes.

Ok so we’ve got the stations setup, people are recording explosion sounds. We’ve got people suggesting names for the game and we’ve got a drawing station with people filling in the lines for chickens, cows and houses!

first build of the game


second build of the game – some art and programmer “animations” ;P

I’ve uploaded our first build of the game: Play it here. The basic mechanics are up and running and from the first brainstorming session we are working our way through the list of todos.

The second build includes the first audience made art ; the trees and cows (?).

nawww

But Tian doesn’t like having people watch over her shoulder. Especially when she has to make art that fits the same style as what the audience can draw… haha oh Tian, it’s ok we know you’re AWESOME.

Day 1 – Hour 5 – 2:01pm

CHICKENS

and this one!

Here’s one of my favourite audience made art works!

People recording chicken sounds has got to be the best part of this whole shenanigan! It always gets a laff. BEGGGEEERRRRRRKKKK

Day 1 – Hour 6 – 3:31pm

Just had a quick team meeting. We’re dividing up the workload and putting champions in charge of certain areas. Matt, Tian and Henrik are building the first major scene and getting the flow happening in the core gameplay. Sam is getting sounds into the game and the audience user made content flow flowing. Tom is on the star collection crusade and I’m tackling the introduction to the game.

 

 Day 2 – Hour 14 – 4:31pm

We’ve had no internet all day! Sorry for the lack of updating…

But on the plus side we’ve been better at ignoring people today and desperately rushing to have the game ready for shipping. 26 minutes to go…

 

The final game!

final build of the game!

 

 

 

 

No tags Hide

The best art style for a logic puzzle doesn’t get in the way of a players ability to see and solve the puzzle itself.

Agent Tian and I researched what art principles were used in defining art styles for logical puzzle games. This information will be  relevant to other small development studios, as well as artists and students of game design.

We gathered data about the audiences of various games from the Facebook pages and user reviews of those titles. We found that Train Conductor 2, being a score based arcade game, attracts a much younger and tech savvy audience than is common for logical puzzle games.

Here are two typical sets of demographic data we’ve gathered from users interacting on the games facebook pages:
If you’re unfamiliar with Quell it’s a fantastic logical puzzle game that is performing well on Android phones. On their website you can read about the Making of Quell where you can read their development story.

Train Yards is a successfull logical puzzle game developed by Matt Rix. In his postmortem at GDC this year he talked about the difference between developing for casual players and harcore players. The slides are available for free here and you can listen to the full talk if you have access to the GDC vault here.

When developing a game for gamers you can skip several levels of teaching. With 10 years of gaming experience comes vast a priori knowledge of computer interfaces and how they usually respond to player input. For example, I’m sure you have, at some point in life, been completely mind boggled by the inability of an old relative to move files across folders.

We’ve seen endless cases, while playtesting with a casual audience, where the play tester develops the most obscure theories of what the game rules are. The cause of these theories is simply miscommunication by us, the developers. By stripping the game of unnecessary art assets we can greatly reduce this problem: less art assets mean less objects for players to develop wacky theories about.

We can see a clear connection between logical puzzle games that value graphical prettiness more than usability, and bad chart performance. We see the opposite effect when usability is considered first. It is clear that puzzle games that value usability over art outperform on the marketplace. Sudoku is a good example because there so many Sudoku apps (Appannie gives 823 results).

The players top favorite Sudoku game out of those 823 competitors is the example to the right. Their secret? They have the largest buttons possible.

The GDC talk “How to make your player feel smart” by Randy Smith (available for free here) gives advice about puzzles in games. He references the book “The Design of Everyday Things” and further emphasises the following principle:

Look at the example on the right. Though you might not be sure of the rules or the objective at an initial glance everyone will know how a car moves and player will try to interact with the element in that manner. Logical puzzle games that stick to this principle are clear favorites among the players. For example, see Traffic Jam & Cross Fingers

I will hold off with the remaining slides of the presentation. They rely heavily on statistics and I don’t want to bloat this post with pie charts. If you like that sort of stuff send me an email (henrikpettersson@thevoxelagents.com) and I can provide you with the whole presentation but you will have to draw some conclusions by yourself. I will publish the remaining data with descriptions sometime in the future.

No tags Hide

In 2011 we made loads of prototype games; some small, some funny, some that sucked, almost all ugly (except the lucky few that receive Tian’s touch :D). Here’s a visual tour of 20 of the 24 games that we made in five months. Together they paint the picture of what Voxel Agent games look like when they’re born – a mish-mash of squares, circles and terrible colour schemes!


(more…)

, , , , , , , , , Hide

We were doing QA in the office, and we needed a way to record some of the particularly hard to reproduce bugs.

Solution: masking tape of course.

The result? Well we still can’t work out what was causing the bug, but now I can capture me beating Agent Simon’s high scores on video which is ultimately much more satisfying.

, , , Hide

Last weekend, we competed in the #fab48hr game making competition in Brisbane, Australia… and what a wild weekend! We won! That was great, but more importantly I was absolutely blown away by the quality of games made by the other teams. I was particularly impressed with the level of quality and polish that was developed in “indie” / student room. There is an enormous amount of talent in Australia and I’m sure we’re going to see more from those awesome young developers.

In the #fab48hr competition, each team must concept, design, and create a game based on three keywords that are provided at the beginning of the competition. This year, those words were “suit”, “key”, and “badger”, provided by Yug, Hex, and Jinx.

We made this:

Download the game we made here [WINDOWS] or if you use a Mac, try this link [MAC].

The Badgers of Fury 161

The Badgers of Fury 161

How to Play: Without giving too much away, if you have a couple of XBox controllers, plug them in for the best experience, using “A” as your action button. If you have to use a keyboard, you can use the arrow keys for player 1 and WASD for player 2, with “shift” as the action button. Also be aware the the glowing yellow floor (which totally looks like lava) will kill player 1 and the swirling blue circles (evidently poisonous gas…) will kill player 2. That’s all you really need to know… oh yeah one more thing: the badgers aren’t nice and they will eat your face.

The Badgers of Fury 161 was developed by the Alliance of Indie. This team was composed of developers from a number of Australia’s top Indie studios including yours truly Agent Tom (The Voxel Agents), Liam Hill (Defiant Development3 Blokes Studios), Cratesmith (Cratesmith,DefiantStrange Loop), Matt Ditton (Queensland College of Art, Defiant), and the incredibly talented Milenko (Strange Loop,Defiant).

The Alliance of Indie

Matt Ditton, Agent Tom, Liam Hill, Cratesmith, Milenko

But really, kudos where kudos is due:
As proud as we are of the game we managed to make in 48 Hours, the real winners of the competition were the indie team Rockin Moses (read about them here: http://making-games.net/48/?p=2916) who made a really fun game called The Fifth Suit. 

This game was great fun to play. For me, their game evoked “Smash Brothers Brawl”. While playing, I was less concerned about winning and more concerned about trying to make life difficult for my opponents. It was a strong social experience and quite a polished product for just 48 hours of work! You can grab a PC version of their game here [WIN] but it’s best played with XBox controllers. If you’re lucky enough to have some XBox controllers then I strongly suggest you get this version [WIN – XBox Controllers].

Congratulations Rockin Moses!

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Hide

We’ve prototyped a lot of games over the last few months, some of them were made and discarded within 2-3 days, others had a much longer development process and Slingshot was one of those games. Since I previously posted a concept video of the game here on our blog I thought I do a Postmortem on the project.

(more…)

No tags Hide

We like to use paper prototypes to test our ideas. We find it helps to test ideas really quick, and playing board games is a pretty super job to have 😀 We like it so much, our next game came from a board game prototype.

It’s the weekend, and maybe you don’t have much to do… Or maybe you’re attending the Freeplay Festival like us and get all inspired to make some games. To help you, we put together a generic set of board game pieces that you can use to develop your own board game! Download the pdfs below, print them on A4 and get started prototyping new boardgames! The set contains a total of eighteen unique pieces for you to play with 😀
Three “good” characters
Three “bad” characters
A house
A treasure chest and a coin
Three environment pieces
A life
Five generic symbols
And all of these icons in easy to print PDF’s are available here and here.
So get crackin!

, , , , Hide

As we approached a decided on what prototype to bring into production we needed get a feel for it’s potentials, beyond the core and decided to spend a week trying out different variations. There were lots of ideas and almost twice as many new rules we wanted to apply. Most of them, unlikely to be a triumph on first go or even useful at all. This is the reality of a design process. There is always a heavy amount of tweaking and adjustments that goes into taking and idea and turning it into something that works.
We wanted to see many variation made in a short amount of time and even with two fantastic programmers on call and a level editor to use I can’t request adjustments on the fly. So with an old pair of scissors, pens and an wrist measurement for malnutrition I pieced together a cardboard level editor with a grid and compliant tokens and gamecards.

Getting away from the cursed desk is a massive relief by itself and moving gamepieces around with my hands instead of the using the mouse is like crawling out from the swamp of despair and walking on solid ground.

Need a new rule?

Bam! New rule.
(Link to The Prodigy – Firestarter for your convenience)

After only 3 days we had such success with the variations we felt secure that our game had plenty of potential far beyond the scope of the core. It was not the cheer amount of variation made but how surprisingly easy it had been to create very solid new puzzles.

No tags Hide


We need to learn to communicate our creative ideas better as a team! We figure that since our diverse life experiences and inspirations shape how we dream up and explain our ideas, we should share more of them with each other. Voila! Voxel Afternoon Tea was born. During Voxel Afternoon Tea we share something that has inspired us recently, and let the discussion begin…

You can also check out the first Inspiration Session from a few weeks ago.

(more…)

Hide

« Previous Entries

Next Page »