CAT | Misc

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!

 

 

 

 

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This comic illustrates what happend to me when I really wanted to buy an app on my parent’s ipad when I was in China.

While in Australia you only need to type in your visa card details, the way the iTune’s App Store currently works in China can take ages – especially in my case where I don’t have a fixed phone number attached to my bank account, therefore I have to go to the bank to change my phone number while bringing my ID with me. The thing is, these banks in China will normally require your phone number so when you are paying for something that costs more than 200 yuan, they will send you a random password to confirm that you are the owner of the card and you are the one that’s making the transaction.

Here is a translated page of a tutorial on how to charge your apple ID in China – if something requires a tutorial, it already kinda tells you how troublesome it is, right? http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fw2v.wistone.com%2Fpay_help%2Fappstore_rmb_help.html

Also, people in online forums are complaining about that after their bank got charged, it took more than a day for the money to be applied to their account.

So, if you want to buy a 6 yuan app in China, the only way to do it is that you need to pay 50 yuan (equals to 10 small bowls of noodles in China!!) in advance while going through all these banking details ( roughly 10~20 mins),  then wait for a day to have the money applied to your account, and only then can you get the 6 yuan app you wanted! At the same time, buying a free app would take only a couple of seconds to type in your password. Which one would you choose? I happened to be the group that just gives up on the paid apps and just get the free ones. I believe most people would do the same thing.

I’ve also tried to gift an app from my Australian account – but guess what, after I spent the money and tried to get the app from the Chinese account, I found that the gift code is only to be used within Australia. XO

You might want to know why Apple has made the payment system so troublesome for the Chinese market – but I guess they were trying their best. In the previous system, people had to pay Apple via American credit cards only (as they charge American dollars), so that there were a lot of American credit card owners who had their cards stolen and illegally used by Chinese consumers who didn’t know that they are using these cards illegally (well, some of them know but not everyone). The thing is, there are a lot of online shops on Taobao.com (China’s biggest trading website) where people can pay these online merchants to get an Apple ID with a American credit card attached to it.  Once the illegal use of the Apple ID has been reported, Apple would freeze that account and return the money to the credit card owner in America. However, the result is that lot of transactions that the app developers have worked so hard for are fake. *shattered dev hearts* Therefore Apple has recently changed their payment system in China and allow the Chinese to pay for apps using RMB – however, like you saw, it’s pretty troublesome.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is actually not all that uncommon for Chinese consumers to pay for virtual content. In fact, the free-to-play style MMORPG have earned A LOT in China. People could spend more than 100,000 yuan (roughly AUS$17,000) on a sword in a popular MMORPG and it’s not that unusual. These super rich and hard-core players just want to show off their wealth by owning that sword and walk around in the virtual world. On the other hand, a recent research has found that in China 95% of young females reject buying pirated products – and that’s quite true, because of ‘vanity’. How? Well, let’s use a conversation as an example.

Girl A carries a new bag to work.

Girl B: ‘Ah! you have a new LV bag! It looks great!’

Girl A: ‘I got it from Hongkong, it’s really expensive but I got it with a discount.’

Girl B: ‘OMG!’ looking at the bag inside-out.

A few days later.

Girl B and Girl C are going shopping.

Girl B:’You know Girl A? She bought a fake LV bag and tried to pretend that it was real. Disgusting!’

Eventually everyone knows that Girl A once used a fake LV bag and Girl A never wants to use it again.

This kind of psychology would also work on these girl’s phones, even though it’s not that much similar. At the same time, some of the girls might not even know what jailbreak means but they just get it as the other people recommended them to do so. If these girls think that jailbreaking their iPhone equals to using a fake LV bag, then at least among girls, the chance of people jailbreaking their phone will be reduced. It is quite sad for me that it seems playing on people’s vanity is the best way to make profit from Chinese, but I can’t do anything about it – the simple reason is just that there are way too many rich people in China, while there are also a lot of poor people.

 

 

 

 

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Back in 2011 we had a problem – How were we going to fit a 6th desk into our tiny (4.5 x 5 meters) office space.

Old office layout with 5 desks

Old office layout with 5 desks

We had the following equipment, and the option of an extra desk (we could pick large or small)

  • 4 Large Desks 1800 x 900mm
  • 1 small desk 1200 x 600mm
  • 1 Whiteboard 1900 x 500mm
  • 5 Happy smiles

I wanted to start moving stuff around to get a feel for the space, but Simon – being the super game-designer that he is wanted to prototype the solution before we started turning off computers, knocking over monitors and generally making a mess.  So he opened up flash, made some boxes and started dragging and dropping.

The Tool

The Tool

We had some pretty creative layouts, involving putting everyone around a central island (Cabling would be a nightmare), or maximising empty space by getting cosy with 2 people to a desk.

Creative Desk Layouts

Creative Desk Layouts

Prototype Power!

Prototype Power!

At the end of the day, we easily had 40 different solutions. Some ideas were much better than others, and we came up with some pretty crazy layouts.

That’s the awesome thing about prototyping, once you start messing around with ideas, you find things that you never expected. The simple tool allowed us to do things that would have been simply too-hard in real life. The end result? It’s actually not that different from our original layout, but it’s actually a much better use of space. Even though we added another small desk, the room actually felt more spacious.

The final layout

The final layout

Which desk layout do you like?

 

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We have been looking into the different Android devices out there, and there’s way more Android devices than you’d ever think! We were shocked to learn that there’s been 77 new Android phones released in just the first six months of 2011, more than 120 in 2010 and 35 in 2009! That’s crazy when you’ve coming from working on the iPhone!

Here’s some of the crazy Android phones we’ve spotted!

Slide out keyboards!

http://techcrunch.com/2009/10/19/android-galore-a-complete-list-of-the-android-phones-and-their-specs-droid-best/

 

Blackberry style keyboards

http://www.examiner.com/technology-in-national/another-android-form-factor-t-mobile-s-motorola-charm http://www.intomobile.com/2011/03/07/samsung-galaxy-pro-rocks-android-blackberry-form-factor/

 

Buttons everywhere!

http://phandroid.com/phones/

 

 

The Playstation Phone looks pretty awesome!

http://www.androidtapp.com/xperia-play-the-playstation-phone-review-why-should-you-buy-it/

 

Multiple screens!

http://phandroid.com/2010/12/06/the-weirdest-and-most-unique-form-factor-for-android-yet-by-samsung-video/

Highest selling units: http://blog.flurry.com/bid/54035/Android-Special-Report-Is-Samdroid-the-new-Wintel

Link to the complete list of android devices: http://www.androidtapp.com/list-of-android-devices/

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Agent Henrik is cutting paper boards for our next game! Guess what kind of game it is!

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The Voxel Afternoon Tea! Sound’s awesome, doesn’t it?

As creative individuals we are always producing new ideas, but how can we continually produce without also absorbing ideas?

So, we came up with this idea of holding an ‘afternoon tea’ session every Friday lunchtime. During tea each Agent shares something that they have recently discovered or found interesting and we all discuss.

We thought you might be interested to check what each person shared!

 

Name: Agent Matt
Material shared: Not Tetris 2
Play it on: http://www.stabyourself.net/nottetris2
Reason for sharing: I think it’s an interesting subversion of a classic game. The ‘broken-ness’ of it just works, and it is self documenting.



Reflection
Henrik: I’m impressed of the product. It’s been taken way beyond what he needed to show the concept. I’m not entirely sure what the developer is trying to tell or show us more than that its works but regardless I’m impressed.
Simon: I like how the whimsical controls match the developer’s attitude in destroying a classic :D
Tom: Subversive! Loved how he broke the rules of tetris by making the blocks not behave the way they should, but the players objective remained the same. I’d love to see someone clock this game (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keeSEJG4XzU).
Tian: It’s interesting to watch it, but I don’t think it will be as enjoyable as the original Tetris…
Ramsey: Great Rehash on a classic, lovin it bro

 

henrik

Name: Agent Henrik
Material shared: Amnesia Dark Descent Gameplay Video
Reason for sharing: Along with Limbo, Amnesia was the best game I played last year.



Reflection
Matt: Watching videos of people’s reactions is always interesting. It’s incredible just how psychologically hooked people can get, even though they can just walk away at any time.
Simon: Amnesia looks like an horrifying ride and I want to take it :D
Tom: I need to play this game, but after watching that video I also need to play it on skype with Simon.
Tian: I was worried at first when you told me it’s going to be scary, because I tend to scream if I see something scary. But I didn’t and it was kinda confusing… and funny. However I still would not play the game, just because it’s a scary game and I’ve experienced enough scary things.
Ramsey: Looked fantastic, I’ll get on it as soon as I grow a pair to play horror games lol. It seems the developers really understood how to manipulate the emotions and fear of the player and tweak it to ALMOST the point of snapping.

 

Name: Agent Simon
Materials shared: Live coding!
Reason for sharing: These guys inspired some of my final year work at uni and have been an ongoing inspiration. I like the idea of using a computer as an instrument, and not just to play samples, but to use it’s logic to generate interesting melodies on the fly.


Reflection
Henrik: Much admiration to the people who travel in new direction of creativity. Extra interesting since it’s an area I too wish to explore.
Matt: Code as performance is awesome!
Tom: Loved the performative aspect of this. Reminded me of conditional design more than generative design.
Tian: It’s always amazing for me when someone can do both art and programming. They would have some really symmetrical looking brain I think. :D
Ramsey: Future sailors, taking retro to its logical conclusion! Boosh aside, this looks really cool and I’d love to see where these guys end up creatively in a year or two’s time. It seems to me that once they master their tools ( which they created lol ) they will definitely come into their own.

 

Name: Agent Tom
Material shared: We are the Strange (trailer).
Reason for sharing: Striking visuals and an amazing story. I love how it combines so many different types of visual elements and twists them into an unholy creation of amazing awesome.

Reflection
Henrik: Don’t know if I’d enjoy the movie but will see it because of it uniqueness. If we did not have creations like these our culture would be very dull.

Matt: Crazy video, I imagine it would have been very difficult to juxtapose all of the various techniques.
Simon: I don’t know whether I like his commitment or his craziness more.
Tian: Interesting find, I would love to know how he can afford to make such a long movie by himself. 18 months of production time doesn’t sound like a long enough period for making a good quality movie to me. Also I would love to know how he promoted and sold it, I think it’s really hard to market this kind of film.
Ramsey: Really cool animation man, I can’t wait to pull out the popcorn and anti-seizure pills and let it siege my senses.

 

Name: Agent Tian
Material shared: Get Out – Animated Short
Reason for sharing: Awesome story and imaginative visual style, and the concept is very funny yet heartwarming. Best animated short I saw at MIAF so far this year.


Reflection

Henrik: Fantastic short by people with skills and understanding that goes beyond animation goodness. I think the isolation cell metaphor worked for the most part. The additional details noticed through a second screening were few but impressive.
Matt: Great surprise ending. I was starting to feel really sorry for the guy. Sometimes you think if people can be happy in their own head-space, why should we force them to change? I think this video shows why.
Simon: Cleverly French.
Tom: Great animation. Interesting world. I didn’t actually like the ending. It made everything ok and nice and fine in the world… to me that’s as good a story device as “it was all a dream”. Nice twist in the tale though, I’ll give it that. Animation: 10 points.
Ramsey: Really great little short, beautiful animation and characters, im glad you shared this with me, I will definitely be showing this to my friends!

 

Agent Ramsey shared a top secret idea, so will remain in the vault :P

Where do you find your best sources of creative inspiration? Please post in the comments any interesting things you’ve found on the internet as we’re really interested to see what inspires you.

 

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In April last year, we celebrated our anniversary by going green. We purchased carbon offsets to neutralise our carbon footprint as a company. Now that we just passed our second anniversary, we’ve done it again and are carbon neutral once again! 

We calculated that over the past year our small team generated about 25 tonnes of CO2 emissions – which is equivalent to almost 150 trees. This sounds like a small forest to us so we’ve enthusiastically decided to once again support Greenfleet in their mission to offset carbon emissions in Australia.
Greenfleet

So we’ve done it again. We’ve purchased 25 tonnes of CO2 offsets to negate the environmental impact of our business over the past year. Two years in business, and zero carbon impact with the bonus that there are now more trees in the world!

If you want to support Greenfleet, head on over to http://www.greenfleet.com.au/ and find out how much carbon your business or lifestyle produces and consider purchasing carbon offsets. It’s a good thing to do.

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2010 was a great year for The Voxel Agents. We saw the massive success of the Train Conductor series and we cemented our position as producers of high quality indie games for iOS. 

So now that 2011 has rolled around, we decided the time was right to grow our team. We’re very, very, happy and proud to announce Henrik Pettersson and Yangtian Li as the latest additions to our secret service / games development studio.

TianYangtian Li is joins us as our new graphic designer and she will also be the Minister for Pranks. Tian is a very passionate artist has a love of drawing and animation. She came to Australia from her home country of China to study and to pursue her creative ambitions. Tian is a hard core gamer – no one in the office can beat her high score at game dev story. Tian likes all sorts of art and creation including cooking and of course eating. Yum yum. She hates most sports except the ones that have background music. Tian’s short-term goal is to continue to have her work featured in artbooks and exhibitions, and also to avoid getting hit by a car because she doesn’t have health insurance. Tian was the valedictorian of her class at QANTM and has a very bright future in the gaming and animation industry. 

(more…)

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Hour 8 – 12:30am Saturday

We’re at the 48hr Game Making Challenge in Brisbane and we’re going to experiment with blogging as we make :)

This year’s keywords are: dinosaur, revenge and bar, thanks to @YugSTAR from the ManaBar.

Tom outlined our game plan in the previous post, and so far we’ve been following it pretty closely. We came up with plenty of verbs based on the keywords and started brainstorming ideas around them. We’ve got three concepts we want to take further and we’ve set off prototyping each one of them separately. Derek is busy developing graphics and an art style that works for two of the ideas.

The ideas are loosely;

  • stealing eggs from dinosaurs
  • dropping dinosaurs into a bar for epic havoc
  • serving drinks to punters before they turn into rage monsters

Concept art to come soon. Here’s our setup (thanks for the screens Maggie, you rock!). Notice the healthy bananas! Matt’s eaten 5 already.

Tom and  I are tweeting, and someone occasionally posts to the Voxel feed too.

Hour 11 – 2:47am Saturday

The three prototypes are progressing well. Tom has a playable and is now implementing a better control scheme that uses X360 controllers. Matt has some impressive flocking with box2D physics. Derek has made some nice cartoon stlye concepts (see below) – very much in the Agent flava. I, on the other hand, have yet to compile my code! haha Installation issues aside, I did manage to help Tom get the X360 controllers talking to flash in Windows 7. Matt is now asleep, Tom is piking and I’m about to do the same. Hopefully we’re back at it early and are able to settle on a prototype before about lunch tomorrow morning.

Hour 17 – 8:30am Saturday

The sleeping quarters were surprisingly full last night, and many are still down there asleep. I think it reached its most full state at about 5am. I know this because sleeping on concrete without a pillow ain’t that comfortable and I might have spent more time awake than asleep. The drone of the vending machine didn’t help. Matt and I are back up. Matt’s got some cool stuff happening. There’s a lot of potential in it. Another positive of this “Raptor in a nightclub” idea is that it’s very different to anything we’ve made before and we find that pretty exciting. It has a strong puzzle element to it and it would be fun to deck out with ambient details. On the other hand, Tom’s “egg stealer” prototype in it’s embryonic state was super fun last night and I wonder how far Tom got before sleeping. I think it’s probably worth abandoning my prototype after I’ve had to reinstall Windows and lost a couple hours to crap. Looking forward to hearing from Derek… I wonder when he slept. He did have a cocktail of Red Bull, Mother, V and some other energy drink on hand….

Here’s a playable of Matt’s “Raptor in a bar” prototype. So… you’re in a bar and the green circles are people drinking and chatting. The aim is to eat as many people as possible by placing your raptors optimally. The game currently is self-regulated so you’ll have to use your imagination to imagine the game. To play you have to place three exits in the bar, ie doorways for the people to get out. Click three times, each click will place a blue circle. Now you’ve got exits, you clearly need some Raptors. Click twice more to place the raptors (red boxes) and on the second click the scene will play out. You’ll have to refresh your browser to play again. Enjoy!

DinoDino

PS: Derek is now awake. Good morning Derek.

Hour 25 – 4:37pm Saturday

We still haven’t settled on which of the two prototypes to make.

The “egg hunt” game is a competitive multiplayer game where the two players are competing to steal eggs off a dino. The dino chases the player with the egg, or the nearest player if the egg is on the ground. Without an egg you can outrun the dino, but with the egg you are very slow. It becomes an interesting match of trying to avoid the dino whilst trying to beat the opponent to return the egg to your base. Next up we’re adding more interactions between players and some minor tweaks to gameplay.

You can play “Egg Hunt”, but it’s not easy to setup. Unfortunately you need Xbox 360 controllers plugged into your PC plus this tool to play it. Having said that, its well worth your trouble :)

EggHunt_Hour25

Animations: Dino_Eating_Hour25, Dino_Run_Hour25

The “raptor in a cocktail bar” (aka DinoDino) game is somewhat similar to a simulation type game where you setup a scenario and then watch the consequences of your action. The aim is to enact revenge on all the punters in the bar, and you do this by unleashing dinos at strategic positions in the bar. Next up we’re making more levels and prototyping three distinct dino types.

You can play it here: DinoDino_Hour25

The bar from "Raptor in a cocktail bar"

Both mini-teams have until 6:30pm to receive their final prototyping before we make the difficult decision. We figure neither has the depth in gameplay at this point, but they’re both of relatively equal “fun”. Interestingly, opinions given by passers-by have been equally divided.

Hour 29 – 7:57pm Saturday

WE HAVE A GAME!

“Egg Hunt” has become the clear choice for us to polish up for the 48hr comp. We just played it for a good twenty minutes and we didn’t want to put it down. We’re off to list all the remaining tasks and reunite as one team to polish “Egg Hunt” up for submission tomorrow. After the meeting, we’ll be back here to post the playable.

Below is the final version of Dino Dino (aka “Raptor in a bar”) game at Hour 29. Click once to place the large and slow dinosaur. Click again to place the small and fast dinosaur. Imagine that the yellow circles are marked targets (ones you must get), they don’t do anything different, its all in your head. NB: you can get stuck in a level, where you have no choice but to refresh the browser.  Play Dino Dino at Hour 29.

Just realised Egg Hunt can sound a bit funny when you say it fast in an Australian accent. So we need a new name for it. Thoughts?

Updates coming soon.

We’re going to be adding a stack of new visuals and a couple minor gameplay tweaks. Visuals wise we’re planning to add: level background (seen above), a mother dinosaur, lots of particles, cloud shadows, animations for being various actions, a stun effect, a hit effect and lots of minor things. We’re considering game music that sounds like the Benny Hills theme song crossed with the Flinstones theme song – but getting that made depends on Joel… our musician in Sydney.

Hour 32 – 11:48pm Saturday - Update on the music

It’s looking like we might get a custom loop written for the game!! Joel says: “4pm tomorrow? Jeez! Sure, I’ll give it a go tomorrow. Something weird, fun and mental, with a prehistoric theme…” He’s risen to the challenge of writing something like Benny Hills VS Flinstones hehe :) Good luck Joel.

Hour 35 – 03:30AM Sunday Morning - Triceratops Trauma? – Latest build before sleeping

A little over 12 hours remaining…. This just in: Footprints! :P

[Play the game!]

With 4 player keyboard support!
P1: WASD + QE (Move + Hit/Drop)
P2: Arrow Keys + Shift+Enter
P3: IJKL + UO
P4: Numpad8456 + 79

Hour 46 – 2:20pm – YIKES!!

So much to do. No time to post! Tom’s network has gone wacky, causing the controllers to stop talking to flash. This is TERRIBLE …

We have music though, and I’ll post some shortly. Joel’s made some cool tribal “ougachucka” music.

The Following Day – after a good sleep

Just in case you’re sitting on the edge of your seat since my post at Hour 46, I want to let you know that we did resolve the weird network issue and our submission went just fine. So, rest easy kids :P

The game turned out really well! We’re very happy with it, and at times, playing it was our biggest distraction. It’s called “The Egg Beater”, and in the sprint towards the finish we just wanted to polish it. We did complete many of the graphical improvements we had planned at Hour 46 – see our backlog of tasks to see what got done. There was one absolutely critical task, the win screen, that didn’t get done… Yep, that has got to be what cost us most dearly! Because of this the game didn’t have an end, and therefore after it started the first time, it never went through the start again. This meant that each new person to approach the game would pick up the game where the last players left off, and they would be dumped into the middle of a match with the scores maxed out already at 10 (where it was supposed to end) and they would totally miss seeing the instructions. Fortunately there were always people standing around and some became short term fans, introducing new players to the game – thanks to all the players and voters! We were just one vote off tying the Pro League.

Regardless of our mistakes, we’re really happy with what we produced. I overheard players standing around discussing strategies, and I saw numerous players stick around for multiple matches with some rivalries quickly brewing. The game has an instantly fun veneer to it, bash opponents, grab eggs and drop them at your hut. But there is a subtle and deep strategic element that unfolds with each play. The best feeling is knowing that we’ve made something novel. We’d love to take it forward… I know I can’t wait to get back to the office to beat Tom in a quick match :)

Congratulations to the Winners of 48Hr Game Making Challenge 2010

Congratulations to ‘Big Al’s Revenge’, from Cratewerks, winners of the Pro League! Their game was very polished, with a great intro, lots of humour, light hearted gameplay and it looked absolutely amazing for 48 hours. We were blown away by it.

Immigration Office took out the Indie League and it too was an excellent game. Although I didn’t get a chance to play it, their novel concept sounded very cool. I was amazed by so many games in the Indie League! There were numerous games that really stuck with me and I hope to see the teams continue producing great games. Good luck! The indie scene is waiting for you!

The Evolution of the Music (by Joel)

Working with the Voxel boys, I’ve been given a lot of weird briefs before. When most composers get asked to write something, it’s usually “punk with a bit of hip-hop” or “electro-pop with a soulful vocal” or “tense strings and brooding trombone”.

Voxel Agents music briefs are more like “Nashville country music but with horror themes in a midnight thunderstorm” or “early 90s’s Japanese computer-game electro except that it’s underwater”. This one was “Benny Hill-type chasing sexy nurses across the field except set in pre-historic Flintstones cartoon-land.”

As I was walking out the door of my apartment, about to head to the recording studio, my girlfriend suggested the classic “ooga-chuka” vocal percussion that is somehow supposed to be the way that cavemen sang songs (how did that come to be? did someone dream it up for a b-movie?) . That was the idea I ran with.

Here’s the initial embryo – a multitracked caveman Joel choir:

First draft.

I was slapping my hands rhythmically on thighs, stomach, calves and a tambourine for percussion in that first draft. I then spent a good hour programming sampled orchestral and ethnic percussion to build the sound up to a convincing tribal thump.

Second draft.

Ok, so at this point I’ve got about an hour-and-a-half left. In music production terms, that is but a fleeting whisper of time. Working on a normal project, I’ll give a musical idea maybe three or four hours to develop before I’d break for tea, clear my head, and come back to evaluate whether to discard it or not. Generally, I do.

90 minutes to completely finish? I just had to run with whatever idea I came up with first. Here came the tough bit: cavemen were rhythmic, but they didn’t apparently write melodies in the sense that modern music expects. “Ooga-chucka” doesn’t suggest a thing in terms of harmony and melody. I felt I had two choices for inspiration: Hanna Barbara’s Meet The Flinstones or Paul Simon’s Graceland. I chose the latter, as I’d always loved the electric bass in “You Can Call Me Al”. It’s African, right? Cavemen were in Africa mostly, right..?

Third draft.

So three hours has yielded 7 seconds of audio. Now, 25 minutes has to yield another 80 seconds or thereabouts. I’m already realising that the idea isn’t particularly strong; the bassline is cool, but coupled with chord sequence it isn’t catchy, clever or culturally familiar, and those were the qualities I was hoping to give the game’s music. With no time to look back, I rush forward, programming a nice and clean pop-funk drum pattern, and extending the chord sequence.

Fourth draft.

I don’t want the music to just loop over and over ad-nauseam, so I spend most of the remaining minutes adding variations to each part over the course of the now-extended 90 second runtime. No two bars in the final piece are the same: either the percussion, bass, chords or drum kit is doing something different at any given point. Oh yeah, and I’ve added another “You Can Call Me Al” tribute: a brass section.

The final mix finishes suddenly so that it can loop back to the start perfectly.

The final mix: Caveman Afrobeat.

And that’s that. I email it to Simon and go home for the afternoon, having experienced another reminder that a good music idea is a precious commodity.

And finally, A video of the game

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Happy birthday to The Voxel Agents – now one year old!

This is Agent Simon here. Recently we’ve been reflecting on our first year as an indie game studio, and at the April meetup of the IGDA Melbourne Chapter I presented a retrospective of the business side of running the studio. I’ve posted the slides (link at the bottom), but first I thought I’d give some context to the presentation.

Slides accessible at slideshare and in PDF

Going indie is very rewarding and enjoyable. It is also extremely hard to make a living from it. We wanted to share our experiences to help others who are planning to start an indie studio. The retrospective covers our mistakes, our successes, the things we did that gave the most value and some harsh realities of the indie financial situation. To succeed as an indie, you need to be well organised and have a clear plan. We set out with some pretty outrageously unachievable goals, and although that blind optimism has certainly helped to get through some difficult times, I think we’ve mostly stuck to the goals and we’re now well on our way.

I like to think of running an indie studio as pushing a snow ball along. There isn’t any one single thing that you do that will make you successful, but each successive step forward helps to slowly build the snowball bigger, and hopefully one day it will be big enough to start feeding yourself from it (we’re not there yet).

There’s a very vibrant community of indie developers in Melbourne, and in the hope that we could help, we were really happy to share all the details. The presentation covers how much we invested, our income and expenses and a quick summary of our marketing and production approaches, as well as other tidbits.

The slides are available on slideshare and in PDF. There is a lot more detail I would have liked to add but couldn’t in a 30 minute presentation. I am now developing the retrospective into a full article and if there’s any aspect you’d like covered in particular just leave a comment. You can be notified when the full article is ready by following us on twitterfacebook or via RSS.

Good luck to those who applied for the Film Victoria funding round.

Assistance starting an indie studio in Australia:

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