TAG | game

At the 2013 Game Developers Awards hosted by the GDAA, Puzzle Retreat was awarded with the Accessibility Award. Not only is it an awesome and prestigious award that we like showing off in our office, but it marks a very important milestone when it comes to game development. Film Victoria and Screen Australia now consider accessibility when it comes to providing funding and are now rewarding companies that excel in developing games that are accessible to a wide audience.’

We think this is pretty swell.

Accessibility in gaming has always been a topic of contention. How does one make a game that caters towards people with motor, cognitive, hearing, speech or vision impairments? Mainstream games usually shy away from this demographic in favour of the masses.

In terms of our games, we aim to make them accessible to those living with impairments. We believe everyone should experience the joy of gaming!

Puzzle Retreat was designed from the ground up with that philosophy in mind.

Sometimes games (particularly puzzle games) rely too heavily on language, small icons or graphics that are make it difficult for players with certain types of vision impairment or  difficulties with language to be able to understand and follow. We’ve attempted to alleviate the problem by using large and bold icons that can easily be differentiated. Furthermore we tried to make the game playable without understanding any written text.

There is an definitive association between time limits and penalties with puzzle games. I’m sure you’ve all felt the frustration of nearly completing a level, only to have the timer run out on you. We decided to take a different route when it comes to unforgiving scenarios.

We eliminated them entirely.

Puzzle Retreat allows players to take as much time on an individual puzzle as they’d like, reset it as many times as they want and even skip the puzzle entirely. Puzzle Retreat was designed to be a relaxing puzzle game, so it only felt right to dispose of time limits and penalties.

We’ve also tweaked the detection radius of the blocks so that its extremely forgiving when a player misses a block by a small margin. This feature, plus the removal of the timer allows players who don’t have a range of fine motor skills to be able to enjoy Puzzle Retreat.

We at The Voxel Agents are extremely excited when it comes to the future of gaming in Australia. With so many awesome studios producing games of such high quality and Film Victoria and Screen Australia providing consideration for funding to those who place emphasis on accessibility, we can’t wait to see what gets released in the future.

This is Agent Aiden, signing out.

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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!


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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 😀
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 😀
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. 😀
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 😛

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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PLAY

This prototype is one in a series of time mechanic puzzles we’ve been exploring recently. Tian and I created this prototype and with some additional coding help from the other Voxels. It progressed from concept to prototype in just three days. While this concept as it stands will probably not be something we develop further, it has spawned some very interesting derivative ideas and creations.

I particularly believe in the navigation controls and we’ve been developing some quite special with them. Hopefully we’ll be able to show you this in the near future.

Time-Travel Treasure Hunt is a an observation-puzzle game where the players goal is to locate stars which are hidden in a scene. The scene changes over time, playing back a simple story, and the player can follow the events from start to finish or can reverse and scrub time however they please. As the scene unfolds, objects and patterns will collide and overlay each other to form a star-shape. The player must observe these shapes, and click them at the right moment to identify where they are hidden.

Here’s an example of 3 animated shapes dancing and having an absolute blast in the snow. Can you see when they align to form a star?

Click the link below to play the game! Rules:

  • Locate the stars in the animation and click on them when you spot them. We don’t mean the obvious stars in the night sky, but the hidden stars formed by shapes and patterns, as well as pink stars.
  • Use the scrubber to scrub time backwards and forwards, and use the arrow keys to jump a single frame at a time.
  • Pink stars will briefly appear for just a split second and it’s only possible to click them when they are visible.
  • Other stars have been cleverly hidden in the environment and take shape when objects align.

There a total of 10 stars. See if you can find them all. Click here to play:  Time-Travel Treasure Hunt [35 MB]

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Hello Agents!

For the past few months we have been planning to release the mega sequel to Train Conductor on the 4th of July.

Just like this blog post, our submission was unfortunately not released in time for the Independence Day celebration of fireworks and barbeques.

Train Conductor USA

No need to stress! Train Conductor USA will be available shortly after the holiday weekend. It’s currently in the submission process. We’re simply waiting for Apple’s approval before we release – we thought it would be nice to give them the weekend off.

Gamble with ghost trains in Las Vegas

While we were researching trains in America, we were actually quite inspired by the enormous impact they had upon the American industrial revolution and the role they continue to play today.

We pay homage to this throughout Train Conductor USA. It features the steam trains of the old wild west, the modern monorails of Miami, and of course the electric subways of New York – enough historical transport to make Paul Revere proud.

Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Nashville, Miami, and New York

No need to wait long! We expect to be approved soon after the long weekend is finished. After that we’ll start our own celebrations with a few competitions and prizes for our very patient Train Conductor fans. We’ll be running the comps over Twitter and Facebook so if you’re not already friends with us make sure you don’t miss out – join us at Twitter and at Facebook.

The labyrinthine New York Subway

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