Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bunch of Short Game Reviews

Before my trip to London, I was taking a lot of time off work, and just sitting around playing video games. So here’s my thoughts on some of the games I played recently.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Amazing, just like every other Kirby game I’ve played so far. A lot of people told me that it was too easy or childish, but that’s exactly why I played it; so that I could enjoy the unique art style and relax a bit. And the art and animation really is amazing.

But it turns out that getting 100% completion was still reasonably challenging. Even though you can’t die, the scoring system means that you can’t take very many hits, if you want to earn all of the medals.

I’d also like to point out that this game does Wii controls right. It only using them in a few areas, and they’re fun in all of them. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this game. 😀

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It’s so pretty! The Wii’s graphical limitations aren’t noticeable at all.

Donkey Kong Country Returns

This could have been a really fun platformer, but the way the Wiimote controls were implemented is just really stupid. Why do I have to shake the Wiimote when pressing a button would have been so much easier and more intuitive? Ugh. I should have gotten the 3DS version.

Besides that, the game’s great. The most notable thing is the amount of detailed background animations; Tidal waves, pirate ships, big enemies etc. They usually don’t effect the gameplay much, but they make the game way more exciting, and show that a lot of work went into the graphics.

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You’re really only dodging those moles, but having a train loop around you makes things way more exciting!

Excite Truck

Got this for cheap and wasn’t expecting much. It’s a very simple game, but it’s still really really really fun, and I had a great time with it. Strangely enough, the Wii controls didn’t bother me, like they usually do. I hated trying to play Mario Kart with the Wiimote, but here they seemed to work okay.

Anyway: Rocket powered trucks + Heavy metal + High speed and huge jumps = Awesome fun. 😀

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You probably spend more time in the air than on the ground!

Forza Motorsport 4

I always wondered why people enjoyed realistic racing games. I picked this up just to see if I could possibly enjoy the genre. Using the “easy mode” controls, the game was incredibly boring. It was just like playing Mario Kart, but on very boring stages and with no items.

But then I changed the controls to “realistic”, and it became a totally different game. On my first attempt at realistic controls, I damaged my engine by not using the clutch, lost control of my car on the first turn, barrel rolled a few times, and then couldn’t start my car again, because it was wrecked. Simply controlling your car becomes the biggest part of the challenge, which contrasts quite heavily with less realistic racing games. A bit frustrating at first, but I found it surprisingly fun!

I’m sure that people who are seriously into cars and motorsports would enjoy the game a lot more than me though. There’s a lot of customization you can do on your car that just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know about tire pressure, suspension, gearing, and all that. 😛

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I also wanted to play this for the shiny graphics.

Under Defeat

Here’s another Shoot em up! The controls are a bit strange in this one, but to me, that’s what makes it stand out from others. Your helicopter turns sideways when you move, unless you’re shooting. And the whole game is tilted forward a bit to give it depth, and isn’t completely flat like most shmups. So that takes some getting used to.

I love shmups, and this was no exception. It had massive bosses, lots of explosions and a somewhat interesting power up system. It’s also nice to see a vertical shmup that fully supports widescreen. Most of them usually only use a 3rd of the screen. I’m also glad that the Deluxe version comes with a soundtrack CD, because the soundtrack is amazing!

A few major complaints though: Enemy shots look very similar to yours, so it’s easy to not see them if they’re overlapping. Ugh! Smoke often covers enemies, so you think you’re safe and then some shots fly out from a smoke cloud. Urgh! The game also looks quite cheaply made, overall. Just a little.

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Did I mention the bosses were massive?

Starling Tests

When I was in London, a bunch of people recommended that I check out the Starling framework for making Flash games for mobile platforms. I was already slowly looking into it, but after hearing about the massive advantages and relative ease of implementation, I jumped right into it.

Basically, Starling let’s you use Flash’s Stage3D API and hardware acceleration without having to do any low-level programming.
With hardware acceleration, you get much better performance, which is very important for mobiles.

The limitation is that Flash’s traditional motion-tweened animations don’t really port well; it’s better to use sprite-sheet style animation.
That’s fine for Cat Cafe though, because the animations are very simple, and I can port the tweening required quite easily.

Anyway, here’s some of the tests I did:

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Test 1: Stars

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Test 2: Cats

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Test 3: Tweens

 

 

 

 

 

The first test is just a bunch of glowy and transparent objects bouncing around, much like they would in Bullet Heaven.

The second test has a lot more particles and no transparency, which speeds things up a bit.

The final test is just to see what Starling’s built in tweening engine can do. It’s pretty easy to code objects flying around, stretching, rotating and fading. But it would be pretty hard to animate a character with multiple moving parts this way.

All of these tests should run at 60fps on a decent machine. They’re pretty extreme though, and no games that I have planned will need this many objects, not even a potential Bullet Heaven 2. For now I’m just going to use Starling to get Cat Cafe working at 60fps on crappy phones.

Blog of London

So as I mentioned a while ago, Mochi were hosting a Flash game developer meetup in London, and I was invited to speak at it. That happened last weekend, and here’s a blog about how it went.

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My favorite photo from the trip, with ChrisJeff, Jimp, and Jay Armstrong

This was actually my first time traveling completely alone, so it was quite educational. I planned the trip, explored, and stayed at a hostel by myself. I had never met any of the people at the meetup, and had only talked to a few of them online. I had never been to London before, and didn’t know much about it either.

But everything went better than expected.
Staying at a hostel is easy if you follow a few simple tips, everyone I met was friendly, public transport was easy to use, and getting lost is impossible when you have GPS on your phone.

Day 1: Exploring Central London

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St Paul’s Cathedral

I spent my first day in London just walking around the city center.

Walked past the Shard, and that curved building that melts things. I hear that London has some of the highest skyscrapers in Europe, but they’re still pretty small compared to those in America or Asia. Having been to Hong Kong, I was not very impressed by the height of the buildings here. 😛

St. Paul’s Cathedral looked pretty nice from the outside, but it was kinda boring on the inside. Security guards were quick to stop people from taking photos, and the most interesting areas were reserved for people actually attending the services. Also, the style and layout of the inside looked pretty similar to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, but smaller and less decorated. So I wasn’t particularly impressed.

I also saw the Tower Bridge from a distance. Didn’t seem like a big deal.

So yeah! London’s buildings weren’t very impressive to me. The parks were nice though, and there seems to be quite a lot of them for such a big city.

I was supposed to meet up with ChrisJeff today, but he was very ill and stayed in his hotel, so that never happened.

Day 2: Presentations at King’s College

The main Mochi event was a series of presentations at King’s College, with a bunch of food and networking breaks. There was a big variety of people there, including programmers, artists, game distributors, and students. Some were younger than me, but most were way older and more experienced than me. Around 40 people showed up in total.

This was the first time I met other developers that work in similar areas to me, so it was great being able to talk to people who actually understand what kind of work I do, and to also meet a lot of people who’s work inspired me as a kid.

My presentation was about the marketing and deployment strategy for Epic Battle Fantasy 4, and which parts worked and which parts didn’t. I might upload my slideshow later, but it won’t be very good without me talking, and I don’t think any of the presentations were recorded.

Anyway, I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, but it turned out fine. People actually found what I said to be quite useful, and noted that I sounded very “honest”.

And then we all went to the pub afterwards.

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I got a lot of free stickers and business cards

Besides the 3 guys pictured above, some awesome people I met include Tom from the Super Flash Brothers, TheEXP, RobotJam, Colin from Mochi, the guys from Bad Viking, Toge Productions, and DampGnat.

Even though the event was sponsored by Kongregate, none of their official employees were there, which was a bit disappointing. It would have been cool to meet some of them, and some more American developers, but I guess it’s quite far to travel from San Francisco.

Day 3: Game Jam at the Loading Bar

The second Mochi event was a short Game Jam at the Loading Bar, which is an awesome video game themed bar, with arcade machines and consoles. I didn’t participate in the Game Jam directly, as I don’t even own a laptop, but I did help out a bit by Googling for sound effects, and borrowing machines when people went on breaks.

Most of the time I was just playing games though. I got the top score in Defender! I wonder if the score will still be there when I come back next year. Me and Colin even played all the way through DoDonPachi together.

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Jammin’ away

The Game Jam only lasted around 10 hours, so the games people managed to put together in that time weren’t terribly impressive. But there was one that was pretty fun; it was a local-multiplayer Unity game, with Xbox controller support, about gentlemen fighting on the Tower Bridge, and dodging raindrops.

I don’t think the games are available to play anywhere yet, but I’ll let you guys know if/when they are.

Day 4: Natural History and Science Museums

The Natural History Museum was really the only thing I wanted to see in London, because I had seen it in a lot of documentaries and it just genuinely looked like an awesome place to visit. And it was. The building itself looked beautiful, and the exhibits were also very interesting. There were tons of dinosaur skeletons, fossils, preserved animals, paintings, old trees, and minerals. If I had more free time, I would have liked to sit around and sketch some of the unusual objects they had. Instead I just took a lot of photos.

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The main hall of the Natural History Museum looks amazing

I also visited the Science Museum, which was just next to the Natural History Museum, but I found it less interesting, mainly because I’ve seen similar stuff in other museums. They had a lot of vehicles, including cars, tractors, planes, and spacecraft. They also had a bunch of really old everyday objects, including some early computer hardware.

After that I headed home. The end.

Here’s a public Facebook album of all the photos I took in London (excluding those from the Mochi events).

Greenlight Update

So it looks like Steam have increased their game throughput for Greenlight.
Apparently they’ve recently Greenlit a batch of 100 games, which is a lot more than they usually do.

I had pretty much given up on Epic Battle Fantasy 4 getting through Greenlight, but after seeing this, it might still have a chance. Previously the game was no where near the top 100, but now it’s at number 70!

So if you know anyone who still hasn’t voted and might enjoy the game: get them to vote here! EBF4 currently has 13,453 yes votes. Boost that by 50%, and that should be enough to get it through!

The Steam version of EBF4 will include a new battle area, with stronger versions of bosses, long endurance/survival battles, and some bosses returning from the previous games. New equipment and achievements will be awarded for completing these challenges.

The Steam version will also include all premium content available in the web version, and will not suffer from the restrictions of web browser games; It’ll have fullscreen support, no ads, no audio compression, and it won’t need an internet connection!

It’ll probably cost around $10, but that’s not completely up to me.

If you’ve somehow stumbled upon this page and don’t know what EBF4 is, watch this trailer:

Trip to Poland

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been in Poland for a week, visiting family and trying out a bunch of new things that I don’t normally do. The real purpose of the trip was for my dad to go settle some business with his brother, and I just tagged along because I could. Turned out pretty well though, and I met a lot of family that I haven’t seen in 5 or more years. I’m just gonna go over some of the highlights of the trip.

Toruń

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Apparently this Copernicus guy was a pretty big deal.

Most of the trip was spent in the town of Toruń, and this is where most of my friends and family live. Toruń is known for being the birthplace of Copernicus, and having a medieval town center full of pretty buildings, including churches and clock towers. Here’s some pictures I took a few years ago on a previous trip.

I went foraging for mushrooms in the woods, since that seems to be a popular activity in Poland. We were told that most of the mushrooms would have been picked by now, but nope, there were plenty. Largest one we found was 15cm wide and almost as tall. I actually quite like treasure-hunting activities like this, and wonder if there’s anything similar in Scotland.

 

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Apator! Apator! Apator!

 

I also attended a Speedway tournament, because a lot of people we knew were also going. I’ve never been to watch live sports before, but it was pretty much as I expected; loud, crowded, and hard to see the action. It was still enjoyable though, especially once I figured out how the teams and scoring system works. It was Toruń’s team against some other Polish teams, and we won. Hurray! There was also a neat fireworks display at the end. Worst part was that it took us an hour to leave the stadium and get our car out of the car park due to the crowds. I don’t know if other stadium’s are better at handling traffic, or if this is normal. (This stadium held 17,000 people, and I know there’s much bigger ones out there.)

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I had to live with these two assholes.

 

 

Finally, the person we lived with in Toruń owns two cats, so I made a bunch of videos. Here’s the best one. They did make me realize that I really don’t like cats at all. One of them slashed me for being friendly, and another one pissed on my bed because I left my bedroom door open. Yup, cats are dicks. Why anyone would ever want a cat as a pet is beyond me. The only good cat is one with no legs, because then it can’t cut you or jump on your furniture.

Kwidzyn

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A very tall stack of red bricks.

We visited the town of Kwidzyn because that’s where my dad’s brother lives, and it’s also my dad’s home town, so he wanted see a few places too. We also own land in Kwidzyn now! It’s not worth much yet, but the hope is that it will once the town expands a bit.

The only noteworthy place we visited was the cathedral, which is pretty similar in appearance to most others in Poland, with red bricks and pointy towers. It was interesting though, because there was no other visitors, so one of the keepers gave us a personal tour. We got to explore areas not meant for visitors, including the attic and one of the small towers. These areas didn’t have any sort of lighting, and we had to use our phones to light the way through complete darkness. They were also full of traps, such as low ceilings, spider webs in your face, and slippery stairs, due to hundreds of years of pigeon poop piling up. There wasn’t much to see, but it was fun exploring an ancient place that very few people have seen in the last few hundred years.

Inowrocław

We also briefly visited the town of Inowrocław. Didn’t do much here, just visited a few people. My dad’s other brother lives here, and he’s got a lot of fruit trees in his garden, so we collected a bunch of apples and plums. I also hung out with his grandkids, and showed them my games. Turns out that they visit Kongregate and recognize my characters, even though they haven’t actually played my games. I feel like I should hang out with more young kids now, since I’ve probably got more of an audience there than I realize. (They’re hard to count since they usually don’t have Facebook, and won’t appear on my page stats.)

Anyway, I think that’s everything worth mentioning.