TAG | indie 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.
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’.
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].
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.
Reason for sharing: Along with Limbo, Amnesia was the best game I played last year.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 twitter, facebook or via RSS.
Good luck to those who applied for the Film Victoria funding round.
Assistance starting an indie studio in Australia:
- IGDA Melbourne Chapter – a bunch of friendly developers
- GDAA – Game Developer’s Association of Australia
- Multimedia Victoria – ICT industry support body
- Film Victoria – the Victorian funding body for game and film production
- Freeplay – Freeplay is an independent games festival that focuses on the creative and artistic side of making games
- New Enterprise Initiative Scheme – government income support for new enterprises
Logan Dowell and Derek Pritchard were selected to join the Agent ranks as part of the QANTM college internship program. together they developed the level backdrops of Sydney and Melbourne, created numerous train models, and designed the entire menu art style. They also collaborated together to produce the wonderful loading screens and game website, amongst many other things. The pending release of Train Conductor marks their explosive debut into the games industry.
Joe Gatling, a long standing friend and fellow university graduate member of our sif90 roots, initially set the style of the game seen in the early teaser images, and they became the defacto style guide for the rest of the development process.
Jarrod Andersen connected with The Agents through a serendipitous reddit post in July 2009. Jarrod developed the Mr. Train Conductor character and set the initial train model style, as well as the scary Skull Train.
We are tremendously grateful for their assistance and the beauty of the final game is a tribute to their efforts.