TAG | Games
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.
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!
Welcome to the first of a two part series about strategies you can use in Toy Mania. This first post will include a few basic strategies that will help you on your way to become a toy making master!
- First and foremost, bigger is ALWAYS better. A group of 3 is not a very good toy. Try to at have more than 6 in a group – pro tip: The animals gets happier when they’re bigger!
- Clear smaller groups first, then the bigger ones. Leave the largest groups for last!
- Cubes wrap from top-to-bottom and left-to-right. So any cube that moves off the left side will appear on the right and vice-versa! Use this to your advantage.
- Save the whistle for when the colour it’s on is really common.
We don’t want to spoil all of the strategies for Toy Mania. You’ll have to find some out for yourself!
Be sure to keep your eye on this page for next weeks blog post titled ‘Advanced Strategies’.
This week we’ve made some small changes to Toy Mania. Nothing that’s too game changing, just some fixes for issues we noticed at PAX.
We picked up that some players didn’t notice the 60 second timer that was counting down. Now, the clock ticks down in more ways than one! You hear it, feel it, smell it, live it breathe it. It’s all around you.
We’ve also added your biggest toy to the score screen so you can say hi to your new found friend.
The most astute players will have noticed that the ‘BETA’ tag now is an ‘ALPHA’ tag. As the game currently stands, we have what is known as a vertical slice, that is: one feature of the game polished to a good level of quality. Beta suggests the game is feature complete, which is far from the truth. There are many more features that we want to add to the game, and they will be rolled out over the coming months. Keep praying for the Crazy-Cat-Lady Boost, cause it might just happen… What features do you want to see?
Finally, another problem we noticed at PAX was that some people were unsure as to how to use the power ups. To remedy this, we’ve changed the icon just a tad. Doesn’t it look clickable now?
Feel free to email us or post suggestions or improvements to our fan page www.facebook.com/ToyManiaGame
See you next week!
We have just released our new game, Toy Mania!
Toy Mania is a new style of arcade game where players attempt to collect as many toys as possible. We have just recently released the game on Facebook and we’re extremely excited to show it off!
The premise of the game is to create as many colourful toys as you can in 60 seconds. Creating those toys are simply a matter of rearranging rows and columns of colourful blocks to match three or more and make a wonderfully quirky toy. The players who can master this Rubik’s cube-esque system and craft gigantic toys will crush their friends on the Facebook leaderboards.
We decided to return to our roots with a completely new concept. We like making highscore based games, but we wanted to create something that was different to anything else out the market at the moment. Simon initially drew inspiration from a Rubik’s cube. How it embodies an incredibly simple concept but at the same time it involves complex strategy. I can’t tell you how many people were surprised with the level of depth in Toy Mania after playing it for a while. Its a rather deceptive game.
This is the first time we’ve used Facebook for a beta release. Its actually the first time we’ve had a Beta release at all. It fits perfectly with our methods though. We like keeping in contact with our players when releasing new builds of the game so we can explore new methods of gameplay.
After PAX, we just wanted to get as many people to try it as possible. The response blew our minds. We had players who liked the game so much, that they would come by every 30 minutes to get another turn on Toy Mania.
We can’t wait to release further updates and get the game out on iOS and Android.
Much love from the Voxel Agents team!
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 ). 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!
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:
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 Development, 3 Blokes Studios), Cratesmith (Cratesmith,Defiant, Strange Loop), Matt Ditton (Queensland College of Art, Defiant), and the incredibly talented Milenko (Strange Loop,Defiant).
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].
We spend a lot of time being all creative and fuzzy and nice here at The Voxel Agents, but often we need to stand back and have a good hard think about what’s actually happening out there in the mobile games space.
To make sure we are all still on top of everything, I spent all of last week researching the mobile market space. I forgot everything I knew about iPhone and Android and had a good hard look at the information that is out there. Some of my findings certainly will be old news to you, and some might change what you thought you knew. So, if you’re interested in the business (pronounced “biz-niz”) side of being an indie game developer, check this stuff out:
You may think the iPad is a mobile device, but you’d be wrong.
- 43% of iPad owners use their iPad more than their desktop computer
- 28% say it’s their primary computer
- 34% use it more than their TV
- 83% use it primarily while at home. Only 11% use it on the go.
Developers are flocking back to the iOS platform
Even though iOS has more Apps, Android has more free Apps
iOS has served 15 Billion downloads compared to Androids 4.5 Billion
Android App installs per day may be reaching parity with iOS installs
500,000 Android devices are activated every single day
and most importantly of all…
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.
Three “good” characters
Three “bad” characters
A treasure chest and a coin
Three environment pieces
Five generic symbols