Category Archives: Personal Life

More Rollercoasters and EBF5 Challenges

Following on from my earlier post, here’s some more challenge options coming to Epic Battle Fantasy 5. These were all requested by players:

Counter Attack:
 Most foes have a chance of using a unique counter-attack when hit.
(this one’s probably the most interesting of them all, and adds strategy)

Surprise Attack: Foes attack first in battle, and at the start of each wave.
(this is horribly luck-based)

Offensive Foes: Foes have 30% more attack power.
(On Epic that’s 200% x1.3, so a massive 260%)

No Grinding: Foes do not respawn, and backup foes called in battle do not give any EXP or AP.
(the game is balanced around this already, but now it’s official)

No Free Revives: Dead players are not automatically revived after battle. Can be useful for solo play.
(this one’s not much of a challenge on it’s own, but is a useful option if you WANT players to stay dead)

And here’s a video of me and Ronja in the Särkänniemi amusement park in Tampere.
The Hype and Tornado coasters were very cool, but that pendulum ride was insane. There’s some rivalry between Särkänniemi and Linnanmäki about which park is better and more intense, and it’s hard to judge since both parks have completely different rides and are a similar size. Both are definitely worth going to if you’re ever in Finland.

Back from Finland & EBF5: New Difficulty Options

Hey guys, we’re back from Finland!
The trip back was a nightmare – I was really sick, got almost no sleep, and when we got home, the internet was broken, and our electricity somehow turned off, creating a swamp in our fridge.

A technician fixed our internet now, but in the 2 days it was down, I still managed to get some work done.

Epic Battle Fantasy 5 will get some new difficulty options in the version 2 update.
Like other difficulty settings, these can be changed at any time, and you can play around with them to make whatever challenges you think will be fun.
Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Resistant Foes: Foes have more resistance to elements and status effects.
(this makes it less likely that all enemies will be weak against the same element, and gives bosses immunity to some cheap status effects)

Evasive Foes: Foes have 10% more evade.
(very simple one, you’ll have to work accuracy into your strategy)

Bulky Foes: Foes have 20% more HP.
(if for some reason you just wanted battles to last longer)

Status Antibody: Foes gain resistance to a status effect after being inflicted with it.
(+10% resistance each time, this will make bosses very hard if you don’t kill them quickly)

Combo Shield: Total damage multiplier from critical hits, buffs and status effects is capped at 5x normal damage. (with elemental multipliers added, this cap is still quite high (around 15x) – but it stops bosses being killed in one hit)

Nerfed Resistance: Equipment gives less elemental and status resistance.
(About 40% less, good luck resisting everything)

Nerfed Revive: Revived players cannot take a turn immediately.
(I don’t know if you can even recover from this…)

Time Limit: You have 30 seconds to take your turn in battle.
(not a lot of time to use Haste – animations don’t count)

Food Ban: Rare food items are banned in battle.
(some people already play like this)

No HP Bars: Foe HP bars are hidden in battle.
(if you want to pretend you’re playing a very old RPG)

Let me know if you can think of anything else that might sound like a fun challenge and isn’t a nightmare to implement!

Also here’s a video of Linnanmäki in Helsinki.
I spent two days alone in the park. It’s actually kind of nice going to theme parks alone, as you get to skip the queues to fill the last seat. And you can talk to random tourists! But I didn’t get any good clips of myself, since I look like a dumbass trying to do a selfie video. Anyway, Linnanmäki has some top-notch rides, with my favourites being: Taiga, Ukko and Kingi. Taiga’s my favourite rollercoaster so far – it’s a long, smooth ride, and the speed is perfect – it throws you out of your seat constantly, and leaves you hanging upside down for what feels like a very long time.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Hey guys, me and Ronja went on a short trip to Blackpool. It’s a magical place where seagulls are constantly trying to shit on you. Here’s a video of the theme park.

If you ever go, the top-tier rides are The Big One (tallest rollercoaster in Europe), Icon (very smooth and modern ride), and Valhalla (apparently the best water ride in the world). Surprisingly the airplane ride – Sky Force – was the most terrifying, as you have to control the wings and try to do a barrel roll. There’s also a lot of historical rides that are worth checking out, like the many wooden rollercoasters, the last-of-it’s-kind Steeplechase rollercoaster, and the Flying Machines – the oldest ride in Europe at 115 years.

Photos from Scotland

Hey guys, here’s some photos from sunny Scotland.
We went on a quick road trip from Glasgow to Oban, with Ronja and some of her friends from Finland. We rented a van, and while it was slightly intimidating at first, it was actually nice to drive something that was well-maintained, unlike my rusty old car that could break down at any time for no reason.

As you can see, the weather changed every 5 minutes.photo5785109747446428011D9TMmH5WsAAAVKVphoto5785109747446428057photo5785109747446428025 photo5783175612003889565

Play Expo

Hey guys, me and Ronja exhibited EBF5 and Bullet Heaven 2 at the Play Expo in Glasgow last weekend. It’s a chill, medium-sized event with lots of retro games and a family-friendly atmosphere. We also exhibited last year, so we knew what to expect and there wasn’t really any surprises. But this time we were joined by our buddy Chris Jeff, another Flash game developer who is now working on Squishy Sports.

The expo seems to grow a bit every year, but there’s less and less indie developers exhibiting there. So I’ll have to try to convince more UK devs to come over for next year!

Best quote this year was that Bullet Heaven 2 “looks like Undertale on crack”.

Scotland’s Theme Park

Hey guys, I went to M&Ds on Friday with some friends. It was quite a nice day, so I was surprised to see the park completely deserted. England has a few great theme parks, but this is all we’ve got in Scotland, and it aint much. I made a quick video dedicated to how disappointing it was.

I’ll have some footage of the Play Expo up tomorrow!

EBF5 Speedrunning

Hey guys, here’s an EBF5 speedrun video that shows off some glitches in EBF5. You can glitch your way to different parts of the map if you change your save file at the right time. I think preparing multiple saved games in advance may be cheating though…

Here’s a speedrun of the first area without any glitches.
I do wonder if EBF5 will be as much fun to speedrun as EBF4 was, as that one had some really fun glitches.

In other news, I’ve been tinkering with my mobile gaming setup.
Pokemon Clover is a fantastic ROM hack – I grin like an idiot when playing it – but I can only recommend it to people who love edgy meme humour. I’m looking forward to trying more creative Pokemon hacks.
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Success and Stress

Hey guys, here’s a long blog about game-dev related stress.

Since around November when Epic Battle Fantasy 5 was approaching completion, I’ve been incredibly stressed about it. It’s actually likely I was stressed long before that, but just worked through it and didn’t notice too much until then. The worst has passed, but even now, 3 months after a very successful launch, the game is still causing me a lot of anxiety. I’ve never felt this way about other games that I’ve made. It’s hard to write about because it sounds weird to say it – nothing even went wrong! – but I’ll try to organise my thoughts and figure out why I feel this way.

EBF5 was by far my largest project, taking up 3 years of full time work, without any major breaks. My previous largest project was EBF4, which maybe took around 1.5 years, but I worked on it on-and-off. It’s definitely not healthy to work on a single project for so long. I’m financially secure (largely from EBF4 doing very well for many years), so I didn’t need any funding to make EBF5, and if it flopped completely I’d still be fine financially. However, it would have still been a major bummer to spend 3 years making a game that no one was interested in playing. I was fairly confident that EBF5 would be a success – just based on the huge number of people that were following its development – but there’s always that nagging feeling that something might go completely wrong before I finish it.

EBF5 was the first game I’ve made specifically for Steam, with the browser version being more of an afterthought. That put a lot of pressure on me to make sure it’s a game worth paying for, and so that no one can say “well, the previous games were free, why do I have to pay for this one?” I know people don’t take kindly to sequels that don’t have at least as much content as the previous game, so I had to make sure the new game was bigger AND better by just about every metric possible, while also trying out some new ideas. It’s hard to please everyone, but I think it’s worth trying. Keeping old fans is way easier than finding new ones.

I like to batch my work and complete each part before moving onto the next. For example, I spent around a month just drawing trees and rocks and other background stuff. Debugging took almost 2 whole months. I did most of the art assets before any coding, so the game was half finished before I even had a playable prototype done! This approach worked efficiently in my previous games, but this time I just ended up doing the same kind of work for too long at a time, and it became really monotonous and demotivating. Maybe I should have taken turns working on different parts of the game, or maybe that would have made development take even longer. It’s definitely going to be a while before I commit to spending more than a year on a project again. A lot of people may say “just don’t work so hard!”, but I’d never get the game finished if I didn’t! Progressing slowly is even more demotivating than being overworked! 

The weeks leading up to the launch were the worst. I set myself a deadline because I didn’t want to go over 3 years of development time, wanted to launch before a bunch of major AAA games, and I was getting seriously diminishing returns from debugging and polishing by that point. I had 2 weeks to fix a few major bugs that turned out to be more complicated than I thought. Deadlines are no fun, but continuing to work on the game instead of launching may have been even more soul-crushing. Things got really emotional, and my whole life revolved around finishing the game. I just had to get it done, even if it wasn’t perfect.

My girlfriend Ronja was a lot of help around launch time. She helped me test the game, and did a lot of customer support, while I was stressing out with debugging. I’ve now hired her to keep doing that, and also to do some social media posts for me. However, it turns out it’s not so easy to hire someone! I had to waste a few days learning about all the relevant laws, and doing tax paperwork. In the long term it’ll reduce my workload and be worth it, but it was a painful transition! I can totally see why many people are opposed to government regulation, or may even illegally dodge taxes. It’s just such a thankless and tedious task to do this stuff correctly!

I always liked to think of game development as a hobby, even when I started making money from it. I’m just some guy working at a computer, from his home, whenever he feels like it. I only have to do the bare minimum paperwork to keep the tax man happy. That approach isn’t really working for me anymore – I’ve got an employee now, my tax situation is getting more complicated, and I’m generally not prepared on the business side of things. I’m starting to feel the weight of new responsibilities that I never wanted. Being your girlfriend’s boss is also a weird dynamic to explore. There will be some growing pains, but I’ll do some studying, hire an accountant, and get over it eventually. What a first-world problem – I’m too successful!

Another issue I’ve been having lately is that I’m spending more and more time dealing with people. There’s many volunteers helping me out, either with moderating the EBF Discord server, writing wikis, helping with translations, or sending in fanart. I’m incredibly thankful that people want to help out in all sorts of ways. However, sometimes this means that I have to sort out disputes and arguments, especially on Discord, and I often don’t know the best way to deal with them. I’m neither their boss nor their friend – I don’t really know what our relationship is – and that makes things quite awkward sometimes. I feel I’ve gotten worse at dealing with this as I’ve gotten older and more mature. In my late teens and early twenties, I wasn’t as sensitive to other people’s feelings as I am now. Especially on the internet, I would often reply bluntly to comments, or ignore many of them completely. I’ve always done my best to read all the comments I receive, but I never really thought of them as being made by real people. Everyone online was just an anonymous user. The internet is a bit more personal these days, so that’s harder to do. I’m still trying to figure out how to be nice to my fans without getting too close to them.

Finally, Adobe Flash being a sinking ship isn’t helping me. I was and still am fairly confident that Flash is viable as a game development tool for me personally – maybe not for the web anymore, but for desktop and mobile games, it still does the job. But being one of the last people defending Flash is not a good place to be in mentally. Most of the developers I know have moved on, and I feel like I’m some old guy who’s been left behind by the rest of the world. Adobe’s lack of transparency isn’t helping either – it’s not really clear how dedicated they are to keeping the technology alive, but I’m not optimistic. (Flash is not dead in 2020 – that’s only the browser plugin!)

Even now that EBF5 is launched and stable, every little update I need to do poses a risk of accidentally breaking something – maybe even deleting saved games! There’s a lot at stake, and I’m still terrified of making a major mistake, even though my fans have always been forgiving. I’ve done my best to mitigate all the risks, but there’s always a chance.

So this might have been a bit of a bummer to read. Launching EBF5 brought me more stress than joy, even though it went incredibly well. I guess next time I’ll try to do things a bit differently, and I’m already starting with the EBF5 DLC – I’m only adding content that sounds like it will be fun to develop, and I’m not going to work so hard this time.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on after that though. I don’t want to jump into another huge project, and the thought of working on another EBF sequel fills me with dread. But at the same time, my career success is solely down to this series, so obviously a lot of my self-esteem is tied to it too. I think a lot of people would be let down if this was my final masterpiece, and personally I’m not sure if I’ll be satisfied with only making small games from now on. I guess there’s no winning either way. Achieving important things is not easy.

I’m not depressed or anything – it’s specifically just EBF5 and all the baggage associated with the series that’s causing me stress. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some sort of balance between what I want to work on and what others want me to do.

New Phone

Hey guys, after using a Galaxy Note 2 for 6 whole years, I’ve just replaced the old dinosaur with a Note 8, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. The specs are nice; internet browsing is fast, games run smoothly, and the camera looks good (see the photos below). But a lot of the hardware design decisions are really questionable! The main speaker is at the bottom of the phone, so when I’m playing games, it’s always covered by either my hand or my stomach. This wasn’t a problem with the Note 2, since the speaker was on the back of the phone. This seems like a major oversight to me!

I also feel scammed by the advertised 6.3 inch screen size. The Note 2 screen is 5.5 inches, so I’d figure it would be an upgrade, but it’s not! The Note 8 screen is just longer! Videos and games aren’t even designed for such a long screen! And some of the screen space is wasted on reflective curved edges. So if anything, the screen looks smaller than on my old phone! Questionable design indeed.

Annoying hardware aside, it’s nice to have a phone that doesn’t crash when I try to open basic apps like Google maps. I’m still happy I got a “flagship” phone, as it’s partly for market research. Speaking of which, I’m trying to play a lot of little indie games on it – the kind of stuff you’d see on Kongregate a few years ago. Looks like a lot of browser game devs have moved to mobile, and I’ve got some catching up to do. It’s a shame that the mobile market is poorly curated and saturated with garbage, so finding those gems will be tricky. Feel free to recommend some wholesome, non-exploitative games. So far I’m enjoying Super Dangerous Dungeons, Monument Valley, and Cat Bird. I was sceptical of on-screen keyboards, but they work okay if there’s only 3 buttons.

Also I’m really liking the EBF5 Foe Competition entries so far. I thought maybe the rules were too specific this time, but it looks like most people understand what I’m looking for.
garden legoAbove is me and Ronja doing a bit of gardening. We don’t actually have a dog, but I do indeed use a pickaxe to till the earth. Below is us crunching before the launch of EBF5. We forgot to change out of our outdoor clothes, apparently.
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PlayStation VR Review

Hey guys, I’ve been playing a lot of PSVR this month, and it’s been a really awesome experience overall.

But let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first:
• It’s definitely not good value for money. Getting the headset and new controllers will cost you almost as much as a new console, on top of needing to own a PS4. A lot of the games that are available are also quite short, so expect to burn through some cash.
• Apparently the VR controllers are out of stock everywhere right now, so I haven’t had a chance to try them yet! For now I’m stuck with games that use the normal PS4 controller.
• Many games will make you feel motion sickness instantly. In most cases you will quickly get used to it with some practice, but there’s some games that many people will struggle with. So depending on your tolerance, you may be limited to certain types of games.
• If you love very high resolution and realistic graphics… you’re not going to get that here. The graphics on VR games are going to look at least one console generation out of date. Each eye only sees half of a 1080p screen!
• Kids aren’t even allowed to play it! I’m assuming no company wants to accidentally discover the long-term health consequences of VR on kids.

All of those points make it a hard sell for most people. But if you’re an adult who has money and only a limited amount of time to play games, then VR offers a huge variety of experiences to try out. So here’s some quick reviews of my favourite games so far. What I can say about all of these games is that they’re really immersive! When you put on the headset you really feel like you’re suddenly in a different location, and that’s a really cool feeling that can be exploited in many ways.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission

This is a must-play game. It’s basically a 3D Mario game, which surprisingly translates very well into VR. You are the camera, and the whole gimmick of the game is moving your head around to find secrets and to get different views of obstacles, while controlling your robot like you would with Mario. It’s a game that feels familiar and fresh at the same time, and is easy enough for anyone to try it. It really should have been a launch title, as it shows off what the new hardware can do – both the VR headset and the motion controls on the PS4 controller. I’ve historically hated motion controls in games, but we’ve come a long way since the Wii, and the hardware and game design makes great use of them. The music is also catchy as hell. I can’t recommend this game enough, but it’s really hard to explain why it feels so good to play this.
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WipEout Omega Collection

It’s a sci-fi racing game in VR, and just like you’d expect, it will probably make you feel sick instantly. After a lot of practice, I can play it for a few hours now, but the dizziness never completely went away. It helps a lot if you only look forward – which is probably what you should be doing while driving anyway. About the game itself, well, it’s nothing too special. Since it’s essentially 3 games-in-one, there’s a ton of content, and it can keep you busy for a long time if you want.

Moss

If Astro Bot is Mario, Moss is a lot like Zelda. There’s platforming, puzzles, hack and slash combat action, and a simple fantasy story. The animations and scenery are really cute, and you feel like you’re a giant that’s sitting in a comfy little mouse world. This game should cause you no nausea, since there’s no motion to speak of – you always sit in a fixed place on each map. That makes it another good title to start with. However, the game is really short. It honestly feels like half a game. It’s great fun while it lasts though.
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Resident Evil 7

I was dared to play this one, but it turned into my favourite horror game ever. There’s a few janky moments where you are reminded that you’re playing a video game – like for example when you occasionally see your arms float around detached from your body because you’ve sat back further in your chair. But for the most part it works really well in VR, and all of the horror aspects are more exciting and immersive. The hiding segments feel especially natural, when you’re trying to peak around obstacles by moving your head around. The game difficulty is quite reasonable for a survival horror casual like me. The bosses are creative, the pacing is excellent, and there’s even a decent amount of humour in the game. Overall fantastic experience. Even if you’re too scared to play it yourself, it’s worth watching someone else play it.

Robinson: The Journey

Here’s a sort of adventure game about dinosaurs. It’s quite a casual game – not far off from being a walking sim, but there is fair amount of simple puzzles and platforming. It’s all about exploring alien jungles, climbing cliffs, and scanning weird creatures, while being accompanied by your pet dinosaur and a helper robot. A nice little experience, but once again, this game is very short.

I’ve also recently started Battle Zone and Here They Lie, which also seem to be very good games.