Whistle Your Way Through A Cave in: Hyper Bat Simulator 2018!

A few weeks ago was the end of January, and many game developers know what that means: It’s time for yet another Global Game Jam! The GGJ is a world-wide event with hundreds of locations where people meet for 48 hours of rapid game development.

This year’s theme was “Waves”, and I found myself with a team that I’ve never worked with before – which is always challenging, but also fun! The development went nearly without any hitches and I’m really content with our result:

In the game, you are a bat flying through a cave looking through the bat pups so you can go hunting. The cave is dark and the pups are tiny, so you use your echolocation to see and hope the pups answer. You steer with the gamepad – but to use the echolocation, you have to whistle into a microphone! (Like the title suggests, this is definitely the latest in bat simulation technology.)

Here’s a video of our presentation after the GGJ (starts at 0:29):

Global Game Jam Berlin 2017 Presentations – Bat Simulator 2018

 

And a small trailer video Emily and Caroline made:

Hyper Bat Simulator 2018

 

The game and its source code is available at its Global Game Jam entry page.

Before I talk a little more about the development, here’s the team:

We also used some assets:

Okay, on to the development! This time (and very atypical for me), the concept was rather simple. A single player game with no really hard development challenges – well, that leaves more room for polish, and sounds just right for 48 hours!

This was also one of the few times where the game design didn’t change much over the course of the weekend. Everything just worked. In the end, we actually finished the game with all the features we wanted! We even removed some features we already implemented because they made the game less accessible and weren’t as much fun as we had imagined: Dizzyness when the bat crashed into a wall, and not being able to call out to children when there’s a wall in the way. We also wanted to add monsters that follow sound, but in the end the game turned out to be plenty fun without the added complications, so we decided not to go that route.

The microphone implementation was incredibly easy, more so because this isn’t my first microphone controlled game. I just had to sample the input volume and detects peaks.

First I wanted to do the echolocation waves via shaders, but that that would’ve taken some time. Then I remembered something I learnt about in a Pluralsight video tutorial just a few weeks ago: Light Cookies, which allow you to put shadow masks on Unity3D lights. The final echolocation waves are just multiple spotlights with a circular light cookie mask shining from above, and the angle gets progressively bigger. That way it “runs” across obstacles and scales walls and stalagmites instead of just looking like it’s two-dimensional shape projected from above. The effect is a bit hard to describe, but you can see it quite often in the videos linked above.

I am really happy with our result! Thanks a lot to my team for being the best team – and to the location organizers and the Global Game Jam team who made it possible for us to jam without worrying too much about such mundane things as work space or food!

Together We Defend, A Cooperative Crowd Game Prototype

I’ve made prototypes for local multiplayer games with 10+ people before – some very successfully, some less so, but always with great pleasure. There is something magical about a crowd of people all playing the same game together. You don’t just need to design good mechanics though – the game should balance well with a few or with a lot of people, which is also hard to test because you always need a crowd. Another problem is input: While yelling with varying volume in Screamy Bird is tremendously fun, it is a bit limited control-wise. Unless your crowd is very small, giving everyone a gamepad is not an option. But these days, most people have a smartphone with a web browser, and luckily, platforms like AirConsole and HappyFunTimes make using these as controllers extremly easy!

My goal was to make a game where people have to cooperate and that scales well with different amounts of players. To ensure cooperation, the game would feature two radically asymmetric roles: the Shooter, which can attack but dies to a single hit, and the Defender, which has no offensive capabilities, but whose shield can absorb any amount of damage. In the center of the games are the Cores which the players have to defend. Enemies come in from all around the screen and try to destroy the players and the Cores, whatever is nearest. The enemies’ projectiles are heat-seeking – they will always hit something, so without the Defenders, the Core and the Shooters will be destroyed rather sooner than later; but without the Shooters, the defenders could not destroy a single enemy.

This was a jam game done in about 12 hours and everyone around me was busy, so I there was no way I could balance it properly. I solved that dilemma by assuming the role of the game master: I would sit at the keyboard and spawn enemies.

Apart from troublesome connection problems, the game worked rather well for a jam game and the crowd loved it. Here is a video of the presentation:

Together We Defend, A Cooperative Crowd Game Prototype

The video was filmed by Iwan Gabovitch and the sound effects are from the fabulous Universal Sound Effects which I can very much recommend.

Connection problems aside, I am very content with how the mechanics worked out and I think there is a lot of potential there. I will probably revisit this prototype some day and make a proper game out of it.

Ritual Breaker: A GGJ Game For Four Druids And Two Traitors

It’s been a few years since the GGJ whose theme was “deception” – a theme that we, back then, utterly and completely ignored. The only way to make up for that (I assume) is to use the theme in another GGJ! So here, after 6 years, my honor as a jammer is finally restored. I proudly present our game:

logo

Six druids have come together to perform
the yearly Super Important Ritual.
But unbeknownst to them, two traitors
have infiltrated their ranks!

Complete the rituals, but watch out for
those which fail – and who participated!

Watch your fellow players!
Identify the traitors!
(Potentially) Save the world!

A deceptive platforming game for four druids
and two traitors with XBox360 Controllers.

GGJ Page with Windows build

Ritual Breaker (Global Game Jam 2016)

Credits:

  • Elise Terranova: Art, Game Design, Hat Design
  • Heiko Weible: Programming, Game Design
  • Tobias Wehrum: Programming, Game Design, Sound Design

Used assets:

Gamestorm X Body Play Jam

A few months ago, I’ve been to the Gamestorm X Body Play Jam – a game jam about making physical games which use the players’ bodies as the central element. And what a jam it was! The ideas were flowing, and our team of four (comprised of Xanto, Juri, Nina and me) didn’t just finish with one, but two working games. To round the event off, the other games were incredibly fun to play as well and in the end I left exhausted from moving around so much, but satisfied.

Before I present the games, here is an awesome impression video from the jam. A huge thanks to the Gamestorm team for their filming and editing work!

Gamestorm X Body Play Jam – Impressions

Our first game: Dance it off!

The development of our first game started of really smooth: Juri suggested a dancing game (“I know nothing about dancing, but…”) where you get some kind of behaviour instructions and have to find your partner. After thinking of the board game Inkognito and pondering how to make partners identify themselves and what should happen if somebody wrongly thinks they found their partner, the game shifted a bit from “stealth/bluffing while finding the one partner” to just straight out “party”: Everybody gets 3 dance styles/moves (like “tango”, “picking apples” and “Michael Jackson”) and has to find their three partners as quickly as possible. The first one who achieves that wins the game!

Body Play Jam: Dance it off

Apart from a few hang-ups, the game worked really well. The only problem I can see is when one of the partners doesn’t know how a certain dance style looks like. This could be fixed by having a game master whose sole job is it to explain dance moves.

Developing this game teaches me once more not to give up too early. This is not a game we could test in our group of four, so I suggested we try to think in another direction instead (which resulted in the second game, so no regrets here!), but when we later had people to test it with, it turns out that it worked pretty much out of the box! The biggest thanks goes to Nina here – while we were pondering some details for the second game, she used the opportunity to playtest this one with the organizers and she singlehandedly created dozens of dance style cards.

Our second game: Slurp!

Again after a suggestion by Juri (“I know nothing about biology, but…”), our second game was roughly based on the idea of cells absorbing other cells.

At least 8 players are formed into two teams, and in each team, players are paired up. The two players in each pair hold hands, thereby forming a small circle – and then they try to enclose enemy players in it, either by throwing their arms over an enemy player or by briefly letting go of their hands and then closing them again around an opponent.

Once you caught somebody, you yell “Slurp!” and the caught enemy has to let go of their partner and stay inside your circle where they can try to hinder you by being uncooperative when moving. Caught players can be freed again when one of the enclosing players is slurped.

When one team has caught a certain amount of enemies at the same time, they win!

The rules are sometimes slightly confusing to execute in the heat of the battle and it’s not always clear who caught who first, but the ensuing chaos was still a lot of fun.

Cupcake Puppeteers

Apart from us, there were two other groups. The first one made Cupcake Pupeeteers, an improv game where players are paired into puppets and puppeteers. The puppeteers are given a scenario (for example “Hogwarts”) and characters (Harry Potter, Voldemort etc.). Then they have to play the scenario out by moving their puppets – and the puppets have to guess in which scenario they are.

Cupcake Puppeteers

It was a bit hard to direct puppets bigger than you and I feel like the game would be better with commonplace scenarios (like “in the kitchen” or “at a shop”) instead of pop culture scenarios which needed specific knowledge, but overall it was quite enjoyable for either party – “masterfully” directing somebody else on one side and trying to deduce what the heck your movements are supposed to be on the other.

YOGAme

And here comes my favourite of the evening made by yet another group: A “yoga game” with a master teacher that has transcended so far that they can freely levitate, while the players have to try to imitate the teacher as closely as possible with the help of assistants.

To make this game possible, the teacher is actually lying on the floor. They are filmed by a camera and projected on a wall to make it seem like the teacher is upright instead of lying down.

While the teacher is striking poses and the players strive to get as close as possible, a helper is going around and appoints players who are not doing well to be assistants. Those assistants help players who are still in the game. And that’s desperately needed, especially once the teacher begins “levitating”.

The last player who is still in the game wins and is the teacher for the next round.

I can’t even begin to describe how much fun this game was! The concept itself is already funny, the strange moves of the teacher quickly become absurdly hilarious and even when I dropped out and became an assistant it was equally enjoyable and satisfying to help other players. My favourite part was when the teacher gently levitated of the “floor” and started swimming – first up, and then sideways and down, a point in the game where the assistants had to work as hard as the remaining players.

Catcher – Procedural backgrounds and enemy particle spawning effects

It’s been a while since the last update. I spent the months working on interesting prototypes and experimental installations, but now I finally have time again to come back to Catcher!

Since the last time, I picked up generative art to make interesting backgrounds. After a lot of experiments, I finally settled for a background that looks similar to the old one, but more interesting and with more dashes of color – and because it’s procedural, it will always look different.

I also visited the AMAZE Indie Festival in Berlin and got lots of great feedback that I used to improve this build.

Here is the changelist:

  • New procedural background
  • Made level transitions more fluid
  • Tweaked movement and net opening/closing
  • Replaced A-F rating with stars
  • Added a score malus for death
  • Added a particle mouse cursor ingame
  • Capped player ships at screen border
  • Improved “Sector Clear” screen
  • Improved rocket visibility
  • Improved level progression
  • Improved tutorial
  • Improved feedback
  • Fixed several bugs, including net collision problems with fast-moving enemies

You can download the current versions here – and if you do, please give leave me some feedback!

A few examples of the new background:

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Another thing that changed is that enemies now have appearing animations! Instead of just suddenly being there, they are generated out of particles using Particle Playground:

2015 09 13 appear01

2015 09 13 appear02

2015 09 13 appear03

2015 09 13 appear04

Next up:

  • Prototyping and testing of two new game modes
  • Experiments with limited net count
  • Improved sound effects
  • Rework the whole ingame and menu UI

Critical Hit 2015: CloudKeeper

Continuing the series of Critical Hit 2015 prototypes, here is the next one: CloudKeeper. Again, we had two weeks and a completely new team of four people to make another experimental game. Our discussions quickly arrived at magic as a theme and circular projections. Some members of my group had a circular projection on the floor last time, so to shake it up a bit, we wanted the projection to by on the ceiling. And thus, the idea of the magical sky creatures was born: Creatures that escaped into the heavens, and the player, a cloud keeper, has to bring them back.

I had a lot of fun with electronics in my last project, so I wanted to do more of that. And I still had a Touch Board that I never had time to use so far – an Arduino with capacitive sensing, which, among other things, can do this:

Distance capacitive sensing! (photo taken from the Touch Board kickstarter campaign)

It worked quite well for very low ranges (<4cm), which was suitable for our purposes. At first we tried to make one crystal which players can touch from multiple directions, but players used to swirl their hands around it like it was a crystal ball and that didn’t make for very predictable controls. In the end, we settled for 5 cardboard crystals, each with only one function and aluminium foil inside. The capacitive sensing actually worked really well through the cardboard! Some crystals controlled movement, and the closer you got to them, the faster the movement got. (And not being able to see why cardboard can sense how close you get to it added a fun technological-magical aspect to the whole thing.)

Apart from that, we also wanted to have generative creatures – kind of like my Chimera Maker, but this time I also got to procedurally animate the creatures! Kailin Zhu drew them and created the crystals you see in the video and pictures below, Titouan Millet made beautiful generative cloud shaders and Peter van Haaften generative music and sounds.

Oh, and I also made the creature nest, a separate executable which showed the creatures flying away from and returning to earth, seen in the video on the monitor. It communicates with the main game via a server using the Yahoo Games Network (formerly PlayerIO). I tried to make it work with standard Unity peer-to-peer networking, but the University network didn’t like direct connections at all.

Finally, all this generativeness combined resulted in:

Cloud-Keeper-Icon

Magical creatures have escaped into the heavens,
and the player must sift through layers of clouds
to bring them back to the earth.

Using a set of five crystal touch/distance-sensing controllers,
the player wanders through a generative audio/visual cloud world
to catch these lost mythical beings and return them to their home.

CloudKeeper (Critical Hit 2015)

Credits:

  • Titouan Millet – Programming and generative visuals
  • Kailin Zhu – Craft and illustration
  • Tobias Wehrum – Programming, electronics, and generative creature engine/animation
  • Peter van Haaften – Generative music and sound engine

The video footage was recorded by Mattias Graham and Tobias Wehrum.

This project was made possible through the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center’s Critical Hit: Games Collaboratory and the support of Concordia University and Dawson College and financial contribution of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.

Critical Hit 2015: (un)done

Critical Hit 2015, the incubator for experimental wearable games that I’m currently taking part in, is still going strong. After Fruit Fever, we formed new teams to do our second big prototype. This time we wanted to do a theatrical experience with a non-linear story.

After the brainstorming, we came up with (un)done, a story about love and break-up. Two players face each other, wearing ponchos with strings dangling from them. When they tie a string together, they hear a positive memory from the couple’s relationship, like the first date or kiss, moving in together or getting a pet. When they open a knot instead, a sad memory will play: a fight, a thing they hate about each other or just drifting apart. By players tying und untying different strings (and with the help of a little randomness), the story that unfolds is always different.

Additionally, a woven screen on which generative art is projected separates the players from an audience. The more strings are tied, the more colorful and intricate the projected art becomes; when knots are opened, the projection is slowly erased again. In the end, the projection is blank again and nothing remains but the memory of what once was there.

This project was a lot of fun and very interesting. I never made a theatrical experience before – and additionally, I wanted to learn how to deal with electronics and soldering and expand my knowledge about the Arduino. Thanks to my team and all the helpful other participants and mentors at Critical Hit that was a big success!

And now I proudly present:

FullSizeRender2_400x313

Step in the shoes of a couple as they meet,
fall in love, fight, and fall apart again.

Embody a relationship as you tie and
untie yourself with the other player, in:

(un)done, an intimate non-linear audio game
made at Critical Hit 2015!

(un)done, an intimate non-linear audio game (Critical Hit 2015)

 

Credits:

This project was made possible through the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center’s Critical Hit: Games Collaboratory and the support of Concordia University and Dawson College and financial contribution of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.

Critical Hit 2015: Speedmaking (3 games in 30 minutes)

One of our creative exercises, lead by Jorge Lopes Ramos, was to make 3 games in 10 minutes each with a set of utensils. As if making a game in such a short time was not hard enough, he added another restriction: We could not give direct instructions to the group who would play our game afterwards. Instead, we should come up with a more creative way to instruct them.

With 16 participants making 3 games in groups of 4, we had a lot of different approaches.

Critical Hit 2015: Fruit Fever (Week 2)

Last week we finished the third week of Critical Hit 2015 in Montreal, an incubator for experimental wearable games! We continued our game from the week before about eating foodstuff to balance your health values:

The player is ill – their heart rate, body temperature and digestion are either two high or too low – and so the player tries to get healthy by eating foodstuffs. Each foodstuff raises or lowers one or two of the aforementioned properties. (To keep it replayable, those effects are randomly decided at the start of each round.) It’s a logic puzzle: The player has to find out what each foodstuff does by eating them, then look at the current status on their apron, and in the end figure out which foodstuffs to eat to get healthy.

The core concept didn’t change much except going from multi- to singleplayer – this week was mostly about finishing the hardware (last week we only had a digital prototype to test with) and figuring out how to teach the game to new players.

We came up with two ways:

  1. Starting simple, upping the difficulty: First there is only “temperature slider and 2 foodstuffs”, then there is “temperature + heart and 3 foodstuffs” and finally we get to “temperature + heart + stomach and all 4 foodstuffs”.
  2. Using a screen which displays hints for the effect of all 4 foodstuffs in the beginning (“Kiwi: -1 temperature”, etc.) and then reducing the amount of hints by one every round.

In the end, we couldn’t decide which one we prefer and implemented both: One version self-sufficent with just the apron/fork/Arduino, and one version with an additional screen.

And now, without further ado…

FF

Malnutrition is making you sick.
Luckily, you have found some healthy-looking
food, but you don’t know what it does yet.

Pick up your fork and watch as what you eat changes
your body and figure out the right combination.

Munch your way to health in FruitFever!

Source code available at GitHub.

Made possible by Critical Hit 2015.

Fruit Fever (Critical Hit 2015)

 

Credits:

This project was made possible through the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center’s Critical Hit: Games Collaboratory and the support of Concordia University and Dawson College and financial contribution of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.

Chronic the Hedgehog, An Urban Game About Persuading Strangers On Escalators

I’m currently taking part in a Concordia summer program called “Critical Hit” in Montreal, Canada. It’s about making games – and, more specifically, about making experimental games using wearables. The first week was more about getting to know each other, getting several workshops (among others for using Pebble and Muse) and playing urban games with each other before the actual jamming is going to start.

I did make one game this week though: Chronic the Hedgehog, an Urban Game on escalators about persuading strangers, made in about 1 hour together with Jessica Blanchet, Grayson Earle and Titouan Millet.

(Video taken by Jessica Rose Marcotte)

The game is played with two teams, two escalators, two cups, a dice per team member and a lot of unsuspecting strangers.

One team starts at the upper position, the other one at the lower position. I will explain the game from the lower team perspective – the other team just does the same mirrored.

To prepare the game, the lower team places a cup in front of the downstream escalator. Then each team member takes a dice and they queue in front of the upstream escalator.

Once the game starts, the first team member steps on the upstream escalator. They cannot move their feet – they have to stand on it until they reach the top. In the meantime, they try to get a stranger on the parallel downstream escalator to take their dice and put it in the cup on the botton of the downstream escalator. If they succeed, this team member is done. If they don’t, they have to take the downstream escalator to go down again and queue for another try.

Once your team member reaches the top, the next queued team member can start.

The goal is to be the first team which has all their dice in their cup.

And yeah, that’s the game. It was a bit chaotic, but pretty fun.

If you want to read more about the first week, take a look at the recap post on the Critical Hit website!

PS: Here’s a picture to appease the preview thumbnail generation gods of Social Media.

Chronic-the-Hedgehog