Experimental Game Dev Interviews
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  • Mobile Game Community Project: Whatever Quest

    Posted on March 8th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    At the Game Developers Conference, there was a whole summit on Smart Phones and I got a chance to talk to a fair amount of mobile game developers. I think it’s interesting to see that mobile may play an important part for game developers.

    Last year, the podcast show tried to do a community game project. It didn’t get as much feedback from the community as hoped…so this year, we’ll try something different. We’ll focus on a mobile game and see how that goes.

    The community game this year is called “Whatever Quest” ….and can be found on the Android market. It uses the sensor systems of smart phones to drive the game. “Whatever Quest” turns everyday life into a quest.

    In the next few weeks, I’ll go into more details about the game design and look for feedback on ways to enhance it :)

    “Whatever Quest” is meant to be a public service project…with the aim to get people to use it for their everyday activities.

    You can download the game in the Android Market. Right now, it has a one-star review. It’s not perfect, but gotta start somewhere :)

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  • Using Corona To Make an Android Mobile App in 15 Minutes…

    Posted on March 2nd, 2011 IndieGamePod 2 comments

    Hey folks,

    We’re going to do some app tutorials to help encourage more app experiments within the community…

    The first tutorial is doing a simple monkey tricks app. The goal here is to make a simple app that has a monkey that does tricks when you tap it on your phone :)

    Let’s get started…first we’re going to use Corona…it’s a cross-platform mobile tool that allows for development for both Android and iPhone. It uses Lua as the primary language.

    You can download it here…
    http://anscamobile.com/corona

    First we need a monkey…let’s add that first :)

    Now we also need a background…a place for the monkey to have fun :)

    Let’s do that next…
    The cool thing about Corona is that there are already pre-made modules to help make simple apps. One of them is the “Director” class…you can download it here…
    http://developer.anscamobile.com/code/director-class-10

    The director class abstracts things so that each “screen” in the app is a new file. Very simple and an easy way to conceptualizing things.

    In our case, we’ll only have one screen…and that will be the Monkey doing tricks against the background.

    Corona has some transition effects we can use to easily rotate and move items. They are like a Tweening class.

    You can read more about the transitions here…
    http://developer.anscamobile.com/reference/index/transitionto

    Now, let’s initialize the code in screen1.lua that allows us to add things…here’s a cutout of the code…
    the “–” denotes comments in Lua :)

    local localGroup = display.newGroup()

    – Background…this is the background from above
    — Corona allows us to do this easily with display.newImage
    local background = display.newImage(“zoobg.png”, 0, 0, true)
    localGroup:insert(background)

    – Title for the screen, for now, we’ll keep things empty
    local title = display.newText(“”, 0, 0, native.systemFontBold, 24)
    title:setTextColor( 0,0,255)
    title.x = 160
    title.y = 20
    localGroup:insert(title)

    — Here is the main part…we create a monkey image
    monkeyBtn = display.newImage(“pet-monkey.png”)
    — We create a function that will do a monkey trick when the player touches the monkey
    local function monkeyBtnt ( event )
    if event.phase == “ended” then
    — Get a random number
    local moveID = math.random(0, 3)
    – We do a monkey trick based on the random number
    if(moveID == 0) then
    transition.to(event.target, {time=250, x = math.random(0, 310), y=math.random(0, 440), rotation=360 })

    elseif(moveID == 1) then
    transition.to(event.target, {time=150, x = math.random(0, 310), rotation=180 })

    elseif(moveID == 2) then

    transition.to(event.target, {time=250, x = math.random(0, 310), y=math.random(0, 440), rotation=360 })

    elseif(moveID == 3) then
    transition.to(event.target, {time=250, x = math.random(0, 310), y=math.random(0, 440), rotation=360 })

    end

    end
    end
    — Now we say that when someone touches the monkey, we call the monkeBtnt function made above
    monkeyBtn:addEventListener(“touch”, monkeyBtnt)
    monkeyBtn.x = 100
    monkeyBtn.y = 320
    monkeyBtn.isVisible = true
    localGroup:insert(monkeyBtn)

    — We’ll also add a close button that allows the player to close the app
    local exitScene = 0
    local closeBtn = display.newImage(“close.png”)
    local function closeBtnt ( event )
    if event.phase == “ended” then
    if(exitScene == 0) then
    exitScene = 1
    os.exit()
    end
    end
    end
    — We have a “touch” event listener that gets called when someone taps the close button
    closeBtn:addEventListener(“touch”,closeBtnt)
    closeBtn.x = 300
    closeBtn.y = 20
    closeBtn.isVisible = true
    localGroup:insert(closeBtn)

    – Runtime:addEventListener(“enterFrame”, showTimer)

    – MUST return a display.newGroup()
    return localGroup

    That’s it! We’re done…very simple. Once again, this is because of Corona and the director class that allows us to abstract things.

    Now that we’re done, we can generate the .apk easily and put it on Android.

    It’s now on the Android market…it got a one-star rating…because someone felt it was too simple. But still…not bad for 15 minutes of work.

    Here’s a screenshot…

    You can download the source and code here…
    pet-monkey
    Enjoy :)

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  • Guest Post: Backtracking and Non-Essential Areas

    Posted on February 8th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    For a very long time, backtracking has been seen as a cheap way to lengthen games. If you are out of time, money, or story, you have a twitching desire to send the player back to places they have already visited to find something you couldn’t get to or do the first time around(Retro did this with missile expansions in the Metroid Prime series).

    This type of backtracking really crushes the freedom the player is supposed to have – if he/she wants to explore, he/she will. Forcing theMetroid Door Blockplayer to do things not essential to the main path down the middle of the game will make the experience less enjoyable. However forceful backtracking can be a good thing if used correctly.

    The weak kind of backtracking ruins games. In Metroid Prime: Corruption, near the end, you come to a door that requires six or so missile expansions to open. You have to go to old areas you have already visited and devour them for missile expansions and doors that were locked the first time you walked by them.

    You even have to defeat some enemies and puzzles you beat the first time. This is terrible design. The weak explanation as to why you need to backtrack (you need six missiles to open this door, the five you have won’t cut it) ruins the player’s suspension of disbelief.

    Not only is the suspension of disbelief hurt, but so is the eagerness of the player. When forcing a backtracking segment, no new challenges are thrown at the player! The learning curve and pacing that has carried the player throughout the game is suddenly cut and halted until you find these missile expansions.

    In addition to that, frustration consumes the player, who has no clear objective and path to the objective, an important rule in game design. This point in Metroid Prime: Corruption is where I stopped playing for months.

    The truth is: if the player wanted to explore, he/she would have! If you allow the player to either charge through the level or check every nook and cranny, the players who just want to advance

    Fallout 3 Worldthe story do so, and those who want to explore the world do so.

    And not everyone feels the same way throughout the game! By leaving the option open for the player to choose, everyone has a lot more fun.

    When I played Fallout 3, there were times where I scoured areas for little things to do, and there were times I put the blinders up and went straight forward, depending on how I felt (self-adjusted pacing). The game allowed me to do what I wanted to do, what would be the most fun for me during that playing session.

    Games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 take the opposite approach of Metroid Prime: Corruption(although, Corruption didn’t have THAT many extra places to explore). By exploring the worlds ofMass Effect 2 or meeting all the deranged survivors of Fallout 3, the player can nearly DOUBLE his/her playtime! That is a whole lot of extra content.

    But another important detail – Fallout 3and Mass Effect 2 didn’t really need to force you to backtrack anyways to see all there was to see: the worlds were so interesting that I actually WANTED to see what there was to do.

    And honestly, if these two games forced me to explore and find hidden collectables in far reach corners of levels, I wouldn’t have wanted to explore! At that point, it is not really exploration – the best kind of exploration in games doesn’t force you to do so (but I’ll save that for another article).

    It’s like the things I say in these parentheses: you don’t actually have to read them – they are just asides! But you read them anyways (at least I hope you are, or my point will be severely weakened). If I, however, told you before the article started that I was going to test you afterwards on what was written in the parentheses, the reading would have become a task!WELCOME TO WARP ZONEThe same goes for extra, non-essential areas in videogames.

    By not forcing you to talk to the wounded alien leaning against the wall, the designers are actually forcing you to talk to him.

    There are more benefits to adding extra content to a game, too. Even though it costs more money, you are making each gamer’s experience that much greater when they find or do something that none of their friends even heard of before.

    The player gets a grand sense of accomplishment upon discovering something new that he/she knows (or at least believes) very few people have discovered. All gamers have this strange belief that they are somehow better than any other gamer (we gamers are of an egotistical breed).
    Extra content also personalizes the experience of the player. When the game is complete, the player has something he/she can look back on, something different than what any other player experienced. This story is his/her story, and I believe part of Fallout 3’s glory lies in the stories people told after playing the game.

    Before I got to play it, I heard accounts of people stealing carrots and facing a wave of enemies, running into a shop, only to have the monster come in after you, only things that players experienced by exploring and experimenting, using their imagination. And these individual experiences motivated the players to explore even more (and it motivated me to play the game, along with many others)!Mass Effect Dialogue Choice
    It is true that cutting non-essential areas and events build up the cost of the game, but think about what it adds to the experience by KEEPING IT NON-ESSENTIAL!

    And when the player is done with the game, he/she will know that lots of content went undiscovered, leading to a HUGE replay value. In some of the best video games, the player asks what if questions (What if I had shot the sheriff? What if I went down that other hallway?) – that is a sign of good replay value and a good game, if the player is already having the desire to replay the game after the first level.

    Plus you add all the role-playing elements to games likeFallout 3 and Mass Effect 2, and you have a GINORMOUS game, which you could play in many ways, with different goals, with different focuses on the characters and your stats.

    So if you want to force exploration on the player to make him/her explore all of the world you created, DON’T! You will make it more special to the players who actually want to explore the world you created (and if it is as good as you believe, they will; forceful exploration is a band aid over faults of a dull story, world, characters, etc.).

    You should only use backtracking if it is necessary in giving the player a strong set of emotions or a new, truly unique challenge. Lets say you go through a thriving village on the way to a mountain. On the mountain, you cause a landslide, blocking the river that used to run to the village you went through. If the designer forces you to go back through the village, seeing  the thirsty young children, the fishers out of work, the bakers whose bakeries ran on the power of a waterwheel will make you feel (in this case, guilt, or maybe even regret).
    Forcing the player to retrace his steps can be a good thing if the challenge has changed in someMario Comet Levelway, too. Maybe the street of the woman you just robbed is now crawling with FBI, or you now have a tool that completely flips the whole dynamic of the level on its head.

    Simply, something needs to have changed since the last time you were there, something major. Otherwise, it is just a waste of time, and will be regarded as such. Backtracking used correctly can wow the gamer, making him/her see the level (in terms of gameplay or world) in a way he/she didn’t see the first time.

    There is a huge difference between games that have too little content, and too much content. Games that force you to go back through levels, looking for things or separate areas you missed the first, are weak, and their designers are lazy.

    Games that allow you to go through non-essential areas at your discretion are strong in this aspect, and their designers (and producers) should be hailed for understanding the necessity for spending extra money to make extra content that they don’t really need. If Metroid Prime: Corruption did not force you to go back through areas you already went through, it would have been a better game.

    By including a block in the game, it forced the players who were not intrigued enough with the world and story to spend some more time in the same areas, while giving the players who actually cared, the completionists and those who had been sucked into the world of Metroid, the green light to even more content. Logical?

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

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  • Vanessa and Her Nightmare, Best Game Design Winner at IndiePub Contest

    Posted on February 3rd, 2011 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-bad-pilcrow.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • The Fun and Challenges of Building a Successful Tank MMO

    Posted on February 1st, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-wargaming.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Free Game Sounds…

    Posted on January 26th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    Someone posted a link in the gamedev.net Announcement forum for Free Game Music/Sounds. Seems like an interesting collection and you can use them for free in your online and mobile games :)

    Check it out here :)
    http://www.nosoapradio.us

    Enjoy :)

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  • How To Build a Game While Having Day Jobs

    Posted on January 25th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-neverbug.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • MusiGames, The Challenges of Starting a Game Studio in South America

    Posted on January 22nd, 2011 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-musi-games.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • New Feature: Listener Mail…

    Posted on January 12th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    We’re going to experiment with a new feature on the show called “Listener Mail”…this is a section where you are welcome to send in your questions and suggestions…and they will be read and addressed on the show.

    If you have a question related to indie/experimental game development/games/studios…post them below or e-mail the show at support **** at**** indiegamepod **** dot *** com and we’ll see if we can answer it on air :)

    Enjoy :)

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  • SmashMouth Games…Running an Indie Studio for Over 4 Years

    Posted on January 11th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    Zuby, from SmashMouth Games, talks about running an indie studio for over 4 years…

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/smashmouth-podcast.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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