Introduction

I’ve been to the A MAZE./Berlin Indie Festival last week – and apart from meeting a lot of fellow game developers, playing awesome games and making weird cat glitch art at workshops, I’ve also been showcasing Catcher!

It’s been a rollercoaster of joy and frustration as I tend to be emotional when it comes to my creations, but I want to know what people really think – so often I just watched people play without telling them that I made the game. It’s incredibly humbling to see people pick up the game, try it for a short while and then walk away frustrated because they don’t get it. On the other hand, it feels so good to see people finishing sector after sector and still trying after dying countless times in the later levels!

I got lots of valuable feedback. The most important aspect to me are my observations regarding accessibility – it’s okay if people decide that the game is not for them, but it’s NOT okay if they just don’t understand how to play. Here are the main problems and how I intend to solve them:

Using the right mouse button to close the net

Some players didn’t get that they have to use the right mouse button to close the net.

While this was explained in the wordy tutorial text in the first screen, almost nobody read that. (I think the best way to hide secrets in your game is in long text passages.)

An image might help because it’s faster to understand and draws the eye more:

The new image explaining the controls.

The new image explaining the controls.

This will be shown until you have finished a level where you catch at least one enemy with the right mouse button. (You can also catch enemies by making looping motions – but this is a lot harder to pull off later and players should definitely know the right mouse button method.)

Damage feedback

Some players didn’t understand what to do at all, rammed their ships into enemies and didn’t understand that this hurts them.

While I could explain this via text, I think that’s mainly a feedback problem with three portions to it: What happened, where did it happen, and what was the result?

After my improvements, when you touch an enemy with your ships, the feedback looks like this:

  • What happened: “Ship Collision” is displayed. A damage sound effects plays. Bright damage particles spawn at the point where it happened.
  • Where did it happen: The ship that collided blinks red for a second.
  • What was the result: A newly introduced healthbar at the top gets smaller. (Health was always in the game, but previously only expressed in % in the upper left.)
The newly introduced healthbar, collision particles, feedback text and a red blinking ship.

The newly introduced healthbar, collision particles, feedback text and a red blinking ship.

The healthbar also refills visibly between levels, which will hopefully teach the players that their health is always full when a level starts. (One less thing I previously had to express through text, yay.)

Little movements

Many players had problems with little movements. In most games little movements will be tinier and more precise – in Catcher they just don’t work at all right now and result in big unwanted turns.

I haven’t tackled this yet, but I’ll probably change the controls so they react less to little movements. This shouldn’t change how the game is played too much because right now experienced players mainly make big movements anyway – because small movements are currently imprecise and useless.

Will this work? I don’t know – but in two weeks there’s a local playtesting event here in Berlin, and I’ll watch players there. Keeping my fingers crossed! And if not: Back to the drawing board with me.

Other improvements for the next release

Other things the next release (probably soon!) will have:

  • Particle effects for nearly every enemy now. The game looks SO MUCH more lively now.
  • Lots of little bug fixes.
  • Visually improved catcher ships! This one was due for a long time now. They’ll point to your mouse when being apart from each other, and dock when they get close.
The ships turn towards the mouse.

The ships turn towards the mouse.

The ships dock together.

The ships dock together.

Thanks for reading! & Where can you play the game?

After posting all those status updates on TIGForums, I thought I had to start here (and at IndieDB) too. I hope you enjoyed it – it’s just about the first time I’m posting updates on a game that is not out yet, so it’s a bit unusual for my blog.

If you’d like to play the game, just click here
for a Unity webbuild and desktop downloads!

Last month, a friend asked me to help out a group of his students at the School for Games who were missing a programmer for their student project. Charming art and not that much work for me, who could say no? And now, a month later, I proudly present to you…

Logo

Teens are attacking the old man’s home,
but a hero knows how to defend himself
even if he is already in pension!

Shoot lawn gnomes, flowerpots and wheelchairs
out of your trusty cannon and show those
whippersnappers how to respect one’s elders!

Play it right here in your browser!

Later on, there’ll be versions for Android/iPhone.

Credits

Team:

  • Cihan Ceyhan: Lead, Game Designer, Web Designer
  • Philipp Kapp: Game Designer
  • Sibylle Hell: Art Director, Animator
  • Dennis Dabergotz: Game Artist, Animator
  • Tobias Wehrum: Programmer

With assets by:

Special thanks to:

  • Norbert Haacks and the S4G team

A week ago, we had our February Mini Game Jam. One of the themes was “local multiplayer”, which perfectly fit the idea that I already had before arriving at the jam: Cutting up some anaglyph glasses to make red/red and cyan/cyan glasses and then make a multiplayer game where each player can only see half of the content.

Shoot all monsters of your color. Don’t let them touch you.
Your friend does the same.

Easy enough so far? Good.
Because you’ll also wear glasses in your color,
which means you can’t see your enemies at all!

A cooperative game about focus, teamwork, communication and fast reflexes -
for two players with red/red and cyan/cyan glasses and XBox360 controllers.

Play in your browser with the Unity Webplayer!
Download it for Windows!

Also, have some videos about how it works:

So – how does it work?

…surprisingly well! No really. But if you really don’t want to watch the first video, here’s how:

The yellow player fights the yellow monsters – he can’t interact with blue at all.

He wears red/red glasses though, and can’t see yellow at all…

…but if the blue player points his beam at one of the yellow monsters, the beam is BEHIND the monster, so it looks like this:

And now the yellow players knows where the monster is and can shoot it! All that remains now is good communication between the players and fast reflexes.

If you want to see it in action, you can watch this video.

The red/red and cyan/cyan glasses worked surprisingly well in extinguishing every single trace of yellow and cyan respectively, even in a projected image! (And in case you’re wondering, red images didn’t work, there were still faint ghost images.)

I really like how the game plays out. It’s interesting to see how people grow increasingly accustomed to playing it. Most start not talking at all and die a lot. Others focus solely on identifying the monsters for their partner and then die because they didn’t shoot their own enemies. Then, slowly, they start talking to each other: “There’s a monster here!”, “One there.”, “Move left! Left! Okay, you got it.” And later on some well-rehearsed teams start playing silently again for the most part, quickly finding the enemies their partner is pointing at.

I might visit the colored glasses mechanics again at a later jam.

Credits

For every month of 2013, I’ve released (at least!) one game – except December. Luckily, there’s still a few minutes left, so I present to you my digital web/desktop/Android adaptation of a board game we once made at my university!

Aubjects

Your job is to locate six mysterious Aubjects on a foreign planet – via triangulation.
To make it more exciting, you decided to have a contest!

Enclose exactly one Aubject to score.
For every additional enemy probe you get one bonus point.

Become the Master Triangulator in:
Aubjects, a game of skill for two players.

Play it right in your browser!

Download it for:
Windows
Android

Credits:

This game is based on a board game made at the HTW Berlin, designed by:

  • Tobias Müller
  • Anthea Neums
  • Nathanael Siering
  • Tobias Wehrum
  • Florian Wokurka

Another month, another jam, another crazy physics game. In the beginning, this one was inspired by the awesome Drei, but it quickly steered away from that and became something… uh, else. I dunno.

Balls & Balloons

You control two balloons attached to a paddle.

Use it to get balls in your colored bottle!

Or you could just remove the ones your enemy has…

(You’ll need two XBox360 controllers.)

Play in your browser!

Download for Windows!

Credits:

  • Programming: Tobias Wehrum
  • Music: Kevin MacLeod
  • Font: Ben McGehee

For a university course, I was tasked to make a thing with JavaScript/Crafty. Since I am not particularly fond of HTML5, I wanted to do something playful that I couldn’t do with any other technology. Welcome with me: webcat.

webcat


webcat

1) Take this link up there and drag it to the bookmark bar or favourites.

2) Go to some other page (Wikipedia works well, for example).

3) Click on the bookmark/favourite “webcat” link!

There isn’t anything to do but running around and double-jumping, but hey, now you can add a cat to any webpage you want!

Credits:

Last jam, I started something I called “Remote Person Control“. This jam, I refined what I had back then:

  • The Player holds a tablet with a soundboard, showing buttons like “Left”, “Right” or “Grab”.
  • The Robot is blindfolded and has a smart phone with headphones – and when the player presses a button, the robot hears what he pressed.

It’s still no game, but a VERY fun toy! I recorded three videos to show what the current prototype can do:

For those interested, here is the complete soundboard:

And here are the voice samples for you to listen to! I love the last one.

Inspiration

While I like to think that I came up with the idea myself, I obviously had inspirations. Here are those I can remember:

  • Signal Delay by ChrisGaudino: A Ludum Dare prototype about remotely controlling a mars rover.
  • Octodad by Young Horses, Inc: Octodad – Loving Father. Caring Husband. Secret Octopus. A game where you pretend to be a human by doing mundane tasks, but being an octopus with an incredible awkward control scheme makes this quite hard and incredibly funny.

Credits

Thanks a lot to our artist and the robots in the videos! Our sandwich-making robot is Adam “PunyOne” Streck. If he isn’t making sandwiches, he’s making games – you can find some of them at http://justaconcept.org!

A few weeks ago, I participated in the ChainJam. It was about making 4 player local multiplayer games, each lasting only one minute – and then we’d take all of them and string them randomly together, playing one after another and keeping the score throughout the game. It’s pretty well explained here!

Since my previous tries to remake my beloved Hammertennis as a Unity game failed, I used the ChainJam as an excuse to experiment some more. After a day of coding (and a little revision later to make it able to work as a stand-alone), I got this:

Hammertennis: ChainJam 4 Players Edition

Try to keep balls in your territory to score points!

Playable with gamepads or multiple keyboards.

Play it online here!

So – am I content with it? Gameplay-wise, I am not – it keeps the uncontrollability that was fun in the original Hammertennis, but because it’s so cramped and you now have 4 players instead of two, the interaction feels more meaningless. I learned to use RageSpline and Farseer though, and I am quite happy with the visual look I achieved. I think it’s a huge step forward from my usual programmer art. So – no, the game isn’t that great, but I think it’ll help me a lot when I try to make the next revision in the Hammertennis prototype series!

Credits:

Many moons ago, when the earth was still young and Astrid and Pete still lived in Berlin, Heiko, Kelsey and me formed a jam team with them – a team whose epic adventures will be told throughout the centuries. We also made a silly little jam game for a theme long forgotten:

SwapSwatch

You’re trying to collect all the colors!
Sadly you can’t suck colors yourself.

Cuttlefishs to the resue! Don the right cuttlefish
to fill your color reservoir in the respective zone.
Also do the reasonable thing: Let him spit ink at your opponent!

But beware of the police clouds, giving fines to everyone
who is in the wrong color zone with a cuttlefish.

A super serious game for two players
on keyboard or XBox360 controllers!

Download for Windows!

[A video will be added here soon.]

I have no idea what we were thinking. Don’t ask. I regret nothing.

Credits

The October Berlin Mini Jam was crazy enough – we had a triple splitscreen with blinds made out of cardboard and and a MakeyMakey game using fruits and vegetables as controllers. (“And to shoot, you just touch the plum.”)

Fueled by this energy, I made this toy prototype for the theme “Lab Experiment”:

Remote Person Control

One person gets a computer and
a gamepad: The Controller.

One person gets a smartphone, earphones
and closes their eyes: The Robot.

The Controller can now steer the Robot
with transmitted voice commands:
“Left, left, stop, forward, forward…”

Like I say in the video, it’s not finished. It is just a toy right now – I ran out of time to make it a game. I’m thinking about adding commands like “Move your body” and “Move your right hand” so you can actually steer the Robot’s hands too – and then have a command like “grab” to pick up stuff, for example.

The prototype was already a fun experience even with just simple directional controls though. It feels really interesting to use a gamepad to control something in real life (and a human on top of it) instead of something on the screen!

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

While working with Unity is normally a pleasure and developing Android has proven to be far more straightforward than other mobile platforms, this time I just got terribly unlucky. Here is how I spent my time:

Closing Words

And now, a screenshot from the video, so that Facebook etcetera knows which image to use:

Who knows where exactly I’ll take this? Certainly not me, although I have some ideas. Maybe the next jam will be the time to find out!