It seems like everyone and their dog has made a Flappy Bird clone by now, but so far I just didn’t feel inspired. That changed at this Mini Game Jam: I wanted to make a game with audio control (which I had tried before) and needed simple gameplay for it – and then I realized that a scrolling avoider-type would fit perfectly. So without further ado, this is how Flappy Bird might have played like if it was made by the GNILLEY developer:
Screamy Bird, A Yelling Game Prototype For A Small Crowd
Yell to make the bird fly up,
be silent to make it fly down.
Fun for the whole family AND the neighbors,
even if they aren’t in the same room!
I don’t know where people could possibly play this game without bothering anybody, but it was a big success fun-wise and was well received in the presentations. My favourite part is that it’s easily playable with crowds!
(And it would probably be perfect on smartphones, haha.)
This jam, I didn’t even really want I’d participate and instead just sit around and talk to people, but two hours in I was like “Everyone around me is busy, so let’s make something too!”. I only had 6 hours left and no concept, but it’s not like that ever stopped me…
Red Ball, Blue Ball
Bounce your ball back and forth!
Build walls at the right moment!
Claim the star once and for all!
(You’ll need two XBox 360 controllers.)
Left/Right Stick: Play your diamonds.
Left or Right Back Button: Place a wall. (Has a cooldown.)
A few weeks ago I visited the A MAZE./Berlin Festival. Apart from showing Catcher and talking to lots of other indie devs, I also visited the #weirdkids workshop on digital improvisation and made a weird glitch art thing with the base projects they gave us. Proudly presenting:
press c to cat
press c to cat
press d to dance
press f to frenzy!
(If you have epilepsy, don’t click on the following links!)
When Fernando and Christoffer told me to give them a build after the workshop, I thought it would be shown in a presentation for a few seconds. Instead, I later found out that it was shown in the cellar exhibition. So cool!
press c to cat wasn’t made for long exhibitions at all though – the cats spawned automatically, but never despawned! So soon, it looked like this, with no cats recognizable anymore, haha.
press r to react
When I entered the exhibition space, there were lots of people sitting in a circle in front of the exhibits – and it turns out they all had wondered about this strange cat game that seemingly contained no cats, only glitchy geometry. I restarted it – and finally they saw the cat and went “Ooooh”, haha. It was awesome!
After the festival, I got some reviews on Twitter too:
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. Following are 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. (The best way to hide secrets in your game might just be in long text passages.)
An image might help because it’s faster to understand and draws the eye more:
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.)
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 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.)
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.
Thanks for reading!
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!
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.
Together We Will Survive (Intro & Both Perspectives)
Together We Will Survive (Cyan Glasses)
Together We Will Survive (Red Glasses)
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.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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
Remote Person Control (First Jam Version)
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:
4h reading up on and implementing the network stuff (connecting, waiting, synchronizing and dealing with disconnects)