Mini-game #1: So, I Made This Mini-Game In 2-3 Hours… (“Box Thief”)

Short version: Download Box Thief (boxthief.zip) (1,8 megs), mini game spending 2-3 hours of time (on 2 separate days – had to watch ice hockey ;)

Here’s a short video of the mini-game:

In the beginning of year 2009 I kept this idea about prototyping in my mind. I then made a decision that at some point during the year 2009 I might get involved with prototyping games. At that time, I decided that I would first finish Dead Wake before doing any prototypes.

The last weekend (Levels event) got me thinking that even though my main focus is on my game, why wouldn’t I still leave some room for prototyping too? I started wondering if it would be possible to spend like 2 hours every week or two to prototype some crazy game idea. I thought that adding 2 more hours into development (instead of spending that time for watching tv, email, playing NHL 94 and other stupidities) I’d lose nothing in terms of efficiency.

In the past years I’ve learned to respect about the methodology of “trying out stuff, and if it goes crap – stop doing it“. So, I thought to give myself a permission to do this game prototype. Who knows what good stuff could happen? And, if it goes bad after couple of games – well, I’ve done worse things than “wasting time on prototyping games”. Nothing to lose here really.

So, what (good?) stuff happened…
I – like most of the game developers I know – have plenty of ideas sitting in some big pile of papers. Game ideas that will never happen. One of these never-happen ideas I had was “push your luck” type of game. I had wanted to create such game, and decided that it could work well for the first “2-hour prototype”. I took pen & paper (while watching TV by the way) and drew some boxes on paper (I can sketch stuff decently). I drew some boxes with big eyes and came with this idea of thief stealing boxes, guard preventing it.

On monday I pretty much nailed the whole game in the evening (I actually had been working all day, and had several “house duties” in my list – not to forget ice hockey matches of course) but I took some minutes here, and some minutes there to pretty much do the prototype. Yesterday, I decided that I’d do couple of last touches and declared the game done. I must admit that I didn’t calculate the exact time spent, and eventually it was over 2 hours (maybe closer to 3 hours) – and since I was multiprocessing (mainly watching Finland – Denmark ice hockey match, but also coding at some point) I’m not totally sure how long time I spent: “2 hour game” shouldn’t go too far way me thinks.

Next time I’ll put a timer on.

Anyway, I got the thing working… and thought to upload a youtube video and also write this blog post.

As with game projects, you get some more ideas on how to improve the prototype (I started thinking about lives, and different places to get the boxes, and online scores and, and, and…) but since my 2 hours mark had passed I simply decided to let it be that way.

At least I managed to nail the game, and it was done all by myself – except for the music (credits for the music goes to Tim at Indiepath Ltd).

Any lessons?
Writing this “post mortem” actually takes a bit of time. With that being said, reflecting how the stuff was done is actually quite beneficial way to go. From this mini-proto, I actually got one good idea that I could somewhat use in Dead Wake (picking the ammo in Dead Wake could work similarly as picking the boxes in Box Thief). Also, I noticed that I had no time to think too much about the design – but doing a some sort of GUI system to handle notifications and hints would certainly have been beneficial. Now the code just checks “the X location of player character” to see “which hint is displayed”. A proper way to do this would be to use GUI elements and triggers (“when players steps to place Y, show him hint text”).

Another lesson from this mini-project was that prototyping is really fun. (At least I like it). I know that prototyping can also be time consuming (thus, I decided to try with the “2ish hours every 1-2 weeks” – and not even think of spending many hours). Also, I think ideally it’s better to do the 2 hour proto in one session. Now I spent time in 2 different days, which can break the day (well, for me I had considered my day to be over and was bit like fooling around).

Anyway, this was fun for me. I have no clue what people think about the game – but… all comments & feedback would be very welcome.

Link: Download Box Thief (boxthief.zip)

How Is It Like To Develop Games For Mac?

Recently I’ve been a bit interested about the iPhone game development (no, won’t most likely happen this year – but it just has got my interest). Secondly, I’ve been wanting to get a lightweight laptop. I’ve always been a “PC guy”, but this situation got me thinking of getting a Mac laptop. Not a mini-mac, but a lightweight laptop that could also handle iPhone development (and compiling other stuff to Mac comes as an added bonus).

And – I’m slowly approaching my grand idea – thus I started wondering how’s it to develop games in the Apple camp? What sort of tools you guys use, and do you like working with your Mac (in case you have one) to develop games. For example, iPhone games.

Comments?

Keeping Graphical User Interface Clean (GUI)

I’m the kind of guy who wants the user interface to be as clean as possible. For example, I don’t want to see that guy has 32% health left (instead, I want the guy to limb when he walks). I’d rather not see an image of a gun with a text “laser cannon” in the user interface – I’d rather see simply laser cannon in the player character’s hands. I don’t wanna see “121 frags” on the screen all the time, I want it to be behind pressing TAB. And so on, I’m sure you get the point: I want (certain type of games) to be as much GUI-free as possible.

To me, it’s about (the fancy word) immersion. I feel I’m losing something if there’s textual representation about certain elements in games.

For the very same reason, I’ve tried to keep my Dead Wake zombie game as GUI free as possible in the game. Sure, there’s some text and hints and tips, but at the moment you haven’t for example seen how many ammo there’s in your gun’s clip. I remember playing Action Quake (stole the idea from there) many, many years ago – and it was the first game that didn’t show you how many ammo your gun had (and it had no “auto-reloading” after the clip is empty). This created really spooky situations when in the middle of a fight, you try to shoot but you realize that ammo clip is empty! I want the same to happen in Dead Wake where you shoot zombies, and in the middle of shooting you just hear dry fire sounds… you’ve just run out of ammo.

Now the thing is, that I’d still like to give players a way to know their total ammo (counting all ammo left excluding the ammo currently in gun). Similarly as in the army, you could know how many clips you had left thus you knew if you had 35 or 70 (or whatever) ammo left by simply counting full clips. I’ll consider adding this clip/ammo number in the screen, and either showing it all the time or when player hovers the mouse over something. (I’ll also ask you guys for suggestions, and think of checking out some other games to see if there’s some good ideas on doing this).

With that being said, anyone else likes to keep the user interface as empty as possible? Or… do you wanna show loads of stats? (I realize that different genres – like for example adventure RPG or some sort of strategy games where you might need to get much information about many units easily – need to provide more info than Dead Wake’s type of action game).

“If You Wanna Get Experience Making Games, Make Games”

The first Levels event day (and the last for me this year) is over and there were some pretty good stuff I thought might be worth sharing.

Eero Tuovinen had a nice lesson about ethics in game design, and I took some notes from there. One especially striking idea was when Eero said that “Designing an addictive game is easy. But is that what we should strive to do? Should game designers just try to invent something addictive – and then we could say to them: ‘congratulations, you’ve just invented a new drug’ (he was also making points about World of Warcraft addictions…)”. I’ll email Eero more about this – I wanna read more about the dark side!

Petri’s (Kloonigames) presentation about game prototyping (I think he did the same presentation in GDC by the way) was really well done, and inspiring. What strike me most how huge impact prototyping has been to Petri’s life (dropped school since he needed time to make games… nowadays makes games for living – ask Petri for more info). He said that “If you wanna get good in making games, then make games (aka prototype a lot)”.

I think that’s really simple piece of advice, but truly worth gold – and I think it goes beyond video game prototyping. Even if you design and produce video games, it can be really inspiring and fresh to make game prototypes with cards and (other) board games pieces. Or pen & paper RPG protos. Or party games, or anything goes.

Really inspiring day. I won’t attend tomorrow, but these attending these types of events (even small ones) remind me why it’s good to attend to these events. You meet guys, you learn new stuff, you learn old stuff, you get reminded about stuff, you get to talk interesting stuff – and eventually you also pick some nuggets of wisdom with you, and perhaps it helps you to get better stuff done.

Attending these events also reminds me about one other thing: man I suck at taking photos. Just look at these 2 horrible photos of Little Big Planet.

Just horrible.

Levels Gaming Event On Jyvaskyla, Finland (25th – 26th)

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Levels JKL event. The event is mainly about board and video games. I know this site’s audience is mostly non-Finnish guys but I just wanted to bring this up. In case somebody wants to meet there, let me know. Would be fun to meet fellow developers, especially since the events here in Finland are quite scarce. (Please feel free to email me in case you are coming, so we might be able to arrange some sort of gathering there.)

The Levels Jyvaskyla event (conference or what you call it) lasts 2 days and the program is available on their website. I’ll be checking out at least presentation by Eero Tuovinen (this guy is a genius in game design) at 10:40 and Petri’s Crayon Deluxe presentation (awesome I’d expect) at 15:30 so in case somebody is attending, you can spot me from there (I look like this).

The second day program didn’t look so interesting to me, so I’m attending just the first day on Saturday. I’ll see if I manage to record or write down something useful and tell about the event here in my blog next week.

In case you happen to be near Jyvaskyla, then join the event. It’s free.

Back Pain Is Back

For the last couple of weeks I’ve spent way too much time staring computer screen and way little time… umm… doing something else than staring computer screen. I do exercise regularly but still the upper part of my back is not feeling good at the moment (well, it feels little bit better than couple of days ago – since I reminded myself to take bit of breaks and do some other stuff than sitting & typing).

Note to self: stretching and taking breaks is you know… a good idea.

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So You Are Earning From Ads And Think Piratism Is Okay?

There’s one thing software pirates haven’t really thought about. They argue that software needs to be free “since it’s not stealing”. Even if somebody spent tons of time to create the software, it’s okay to use it for free. And it’s even okay to show ads on your pirate site, and get revenues. That’s what the Prison Bay is doing – and people say it’s totally cool.

So, with that logic – it’s okay for me to steal all the code/art/assets you’ve done, put them somewhere (outside my servers) and collect ad revenues. If you have code a game, I could rip all the art and use them in my game – since that’s not stealing.

Let’s suppose you are in favor for piratism. You think it’s okay to pirate games. And, you currently make free games (flash or downloadable, doesn’t matter).

Now, would it be okay if I’d pirate your game, and then use it totally free in my site (but so that the actual game is not hosted on my server, but rather as torrent file on users servers – I just link there) and then I switch your ads to my ads. I’d be pirating your code, and I would get all the ad revenues.

If you think that “it’s okay to pirate games” (even if it means that some people will lose their income), then naturally you must also accept that it’s okay to pirate any “code” (and art) and use your code and art in my game – right?

I mean, if you create a picture. It’s not really that I’m stealing your picture. You still have it. I just go out and show the pic (hosted in some free image hosting site for example) to my site visitors, and get revenues from ads.

That’s totally okay, right?

Why No Prison Bay?

Interestingly enough, most of the readers of this blog voted no for “was it a good decision to find P.Bay owners guilty”. Earlier, I had another poll where you could would whether you are making games for a living. Here’s the polls (you can still vote).

[poll id=4]

[poll id=2]

Obviously these 2 polls were shown separately earlier, so basically it means that I don’t know how many people voted to both polls, and unfortunately I have pretty no way to tell. Regardless of that, it’s still quite interesting that majority who read about the pirate post voted “bad decision”.

I voted neutral – I don’t know if it was a good thing to punish the owners of Bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% non-pirate and I dislike piracy and really think that anybody who currently pirates something, should really consider the consequences of his actions, and maybe if not stop piratism, perhaps (1) suggest how game companies should do things so that everybody wins and (2) meanwhile supporting some developers whenever they can. (Even though I was pirating quite a lot of stuff 10-15 whatnot years ago, I was also buying some stuff and arranging so that I bought some $40 video game together with a group of 4 kids, and each one paid $10, and the one who paid $10 postage got to keep the package and the real CD. The rest of us got a pirate copy.

I know this was not the optimal solution, but for a group of 4 young kids who could have pirated the game, at least we bought one copy legally.

Today I’m not totally against that behavior from those who buy nothing, and if it’s really consistent and as a stepping stone to pirate-free. Of course I’d hope that people would become 100% non-pirates (I’m kind of proud to be 100% “clean” today by the way), but meanwhile taking action and showing support is okay in my opinion.

So, voted neutral…
Okay, got bit carried away. So anyway. I voted neutral for the reason that I don’t know if it’s good to find this guys guilty. I mean, they are now like “martyrs”. They’ve become heroes. And when you get a hero, you get followers. My guess is that piratism might actually become more popular, and that the reason I didn’t vote “yes, was good” is that… I kind of feel that you can also turn the vote upside down. Those who voted “no” might actually be voting “no, this was not good decision because now pirates will have their leaders” – and those who voted “yes” could be about “yes, this was good reason because now we got our leader“.

Or, it could be that “no, this was bad because we (pirates) got punished”. And “yes, it was good because we (developers) got our target”.

Game industry has grown this year (at least here in Finland) even though so called global ‘recession’ (or ‘bad times’ or whatever) is been going on, so that suggests to me that things have been pretty good even with the scale of piratism there might be.

I have zero tolerance to piratism (see also above “kid who wants to stop being a pirate” exception), and I think everybody should aim to having pirate-free computers. With that being said, I think that lawsuits is not going to be the best route (well, of course lawyers will be happy…) to deal with this. Attacking attackers might actually attract more interest, more pirates and lead to spreading of more illegal material. Instead of “trying to fight pirates”, I think we should be “making our product so much better that pirates cannot compete with us or cooperating with them.”

I don’t yet know how, but something tells me that there’s untapped market potential among pirates. Maybe they aren’t ready to pay pretty close to anything, but they sure seem to be interested in clicking ads for example. (Clicking ads alone as a monetization doesn’t probably help much, but I think there’s still room for something unseen innovation here.)

Or, we can just continue fighting against each other and see how many casualties there will be.

So, why you voted yes/no?
With all this being said… I’d wanna hear more reasons why you voted yes/no.

Do you think this was bad because “pirates should freely distribute everything?” Or did you vote ‘no’ because “now pirates will get more popular”? Did you vote ‘yes’ because it was about time that pirates stop having excuses and hide behind laws when they aren’t acting towards the spirit of the copyright laws? Or did you vote ‘yes’ because “now pirates have a heroes to follow”?

Or what was the reason? Why vote yes or no?