05 October 2017
It's been a busy spring/summer here at Force Of Habit (hence the delay in blogging, sorry!). Lots of events, showcases, and behind the doors, lots of work-for-hire happening too. Now the days are getting shorter, and the nights longer, I thought I'd write a post to round everything up.
Spring time in Dubrovnik, Croatia for Reboot Develop. A beautiful place, only ventured to due to booking on a whim. Great talks by many of my favourite speakers. Insightful, memorable talks by many others. 5-star hotel treatment, a lively expo hall, a football tournament, unofficial get-togethers and even sing-songs on the beach. All the wonderful new people that I met really made it!
I've already booked my ticket for next April, and I welcome you to do so too.
L: Evening Dubrovnik old town. R: Hotel beach-side.
The month of June, brought Jamchester game jam located in (you can guess it..) Manchester (UK). Jamchester, organised by Gameopolis and HAC-100, is held once annually, and is pitched as the biggest UK game jam for games industry professionals and up-and-coming student/graduate talent. I can safely say it is the best game jam I've attended. Brilliant, friendly atmosphere, sleeping overnight on bean bags, very well catered, and the rest - all things that make up a fantastic jam.
I decided to go it solo. The theme was a showstopper for me: "Shape the future". I had to throw out my main idea from Friday night and start again on Saturday morning. It just wasn't working out. Eventually I arrived at mechanics for a game inspired by Warning Forever (or indie de-make Warning Foregone) - one that would adapt over time to combat your playstyle. You would be shaping the future through play. A game of cause and consequence: The Butterfly Effect.
The Butterfly Effect is split into 'waves'. Waves can be cleared by eliminating all the enemies or by collecting all of the '+' collectables: if you progress by eliminating enemies, the game will spawn more enemies, and if you progress by collecting '+' collectables, the game will spawn static traps.
The game contains two weapons. The game chooses which you are given. A charge-up punch weapon that you have to stand still to use, or bombs which you can place and should probably run away from. If you're doing lots of moving around in a particular wave, you are given the punch weapon, and if you don't move around much in a wave, you are given the bombs. This forces you to adapt to the new, alternative strategy/play style, and keeps things interesting.
As an extra aside, if you move left/right a lot, or move up/down a lot, the game creates a choke point in the middle or sides of the map. You can see in the screenshots below.
The Butterfly Effect
Jamchester was from Friday 8pm to Sunday 12pm, a total of 40 hours. Jamming for ~32 of those 40 possible hours was very taxing. I needed lots (LOTS) of post-jam rest. I can't stress this enough. If I didn't get rest for at least a few days, I would have burnt out. If you're going to jam, make sure you schedule some time away from work and screens/computers afterwards. (Yep...)
All of the sleep deprivation was worth it in the end. I came away with the hand-made and totally awesome-looking Technical Achievement award.
This is what happiness (mixed with surprise) looks like!
In July, shortly after Jamchester, I went to Vienna, Austria to exhibit a selection of wares at ReVersed Festival. At the helm of ReVersed is Tom DeRoeck, Charlie Poulon and Arno M. Scharinger, formerly involved with organising Radius Festival, so it was going to be a great event from the offset.
The night before Reversed kicked off was an event called zamSpielen - an open event with coffee, cake, (beer), and a bunch of local multiplayer videogames. One area was even set up as a sort of pillow-fort/bed to lay down on with a projector pointed at the ceiling. I think it was Super Mario Kart there. It was great!
On our main screen at ReVersed was our "Prototype ZX" - a world-shifting, rotation-based platforming puzzle adventure in early alpha. On smaller screens we had The Butterfly Effect and (of course) Toast Time. It was a mad panic producing a stable Prototype ZX build that was ready to be seen by the public. Despite a few showstopping bugs (and evident quick fixes), people seemed to really enjoy the mechanics, feel and small amounts of content in the game (especially this 'spiral of doom' area...). A lot of good feedback was given and I came away feeling revitalised, rejuvenated and more motivated to push on with Force Of Habit's indie game projects.
Booth buddy neighbours were Anton Klinger / Accidentally Awesome showing Pixel Soldier, a fantastic arcade-action boss-rush shoot-and-avoid-em-up, and Klemens Strasser showing mind-boggling Apple TV puzzler Asymmetric, and other projects Subwords and Elementary Minute.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of their work. Definitely check them out, give them a follow, etc.
Straight from Vienna to Brighton, UK for Develop Conference. Usually I'd spend a lot of time at Develop perusing the expo hall, bumping into old friends and people I'd met the previous year, but this time I'd be... yep, more game jamming!
The theme for this year's Develop game jam was "Risky Business", so I decided to make the most risk-averse game possible, with tried-and-tested platforming and absolutely zero new mechanics.
OK, that's not true, but that's how it ended up. Turns out 8 hours isn't enough when (again) jamming solo. The idea was for the player to have to take the "most risky" platforming jumps possible: touching the edge of platforms when jumping between them, getting as close as possible to swinging spikes, AI/bots, and other traps. Grab the briefcase and escape before the SWAT (SWOT) team come in and get you. (Pun intended.)
Ludum Dare happens three/four times a year, and this time I decided to give it my first proper go. My previous attempts in 2011 and 2014 were lackluster attempts spent mostly setting up new development environments. It's only recently now that the FOH game engine has matured that competing seriously is worth the time and effort.
The community-selected theme for this Ludum Dare was 'Running out of Power', a theme that I voted down on in the run up to the compo. It seemed too tropey or too common a thing in video games that as a theme it would be negligible. Running out of ammo / health / money / power are all kind of synonymous in my design terms.
Groans aside, I made another thing in < 48 hours! It's called Toast Up! You may recognise the character - it's Toast Time TERRY!
You are TERRY. Toast-Ejecting Recoil and Reload sYstem. A toaster, technically.You wake up and find yourself in a strange place. Eerie... With many of your internal components missing. Salvaged for scrap! Oh no! You should probably try to get back home... (Home... Ahh... Willy's Wheat Farm... the idyllic pastures and solitude...)
After weeks of playing, rating, and giving feedback on others' games, the results were in... It placed really well! Out of ~1000 compo games (~2400 total) it came in the top 10 overall as well as in Graphics and Fun.
- Overall: 6th
- Fun: 8th
- Graphics: 6th
- Audio: 18th
This may be one that I work on further. Keep your eyes peeled!
EGX Leftfield Collection
Exhibiting Toast Time so long after it's release was quite surreal. The response from the EGX audience (who obviously had no idea of this fact) was very positive. Some people bought the game on the spot, others had to be pulled away by their friends/family.
It was great to rekindle the toasty flame, to see things with fresh eyes, and to think about what could have been improved or done differently way back when. A post-mortem blog post may be on the cards - there's actually one half-written somewhere...
Left: Badges. Right: Rich Metson (making Off Grid at Semaeopus) and Ashley.
P.S. Whoa, thanks for reading this far. Always the unexpected...
SPRING/SUMMER, OUT! (Winter is coming.)