A day at a Indie Game Development meetup.

Hello everyone!

It has been a long while since I was last active on making games. Since the game Sean and I both created for the Candy Jam, I became burned out from working nonstop at my job and working on the game for two weeks. Afterwards, I was really busy with attending to whatever life threw at me (whether it is socializing, going home for the weekend, etc). As things started settling down, I finally decided that it would be time to start surrounding myself with independent game developers again so I could have my passion for game development rekindled once again. I figured what could be a better way to do so than to go to an independent game development meetup events. Lucky for me, San Jose (as well as the surrounding towns) has a high volume of meetup groups of varying interests, including game development. Last night, my quest took me to the Microsoft branch in Mountain View where a certain indie game meetup group has their monthly meetings there.

In these kind of meetups, you could bring your current project it to show it to other people with hopes of getting feedback(that is assuming you are currently working on it or finished it recently). This aspect is pretty interesting as you get to see some creativity of varying sorts.  During my time at the meetup events of this group, I have seen one of the projects that was made at Global Game Jam (at the Facebook site where I was a while ago), along with a 2D Spy Party inspired game, a game that was released on the Ouya console, a candy themed dungeon-crawling game, and an Oculus Rift simulation (which led to my first Oculus Rift exposure). It’s also interesting to find out what they enjoy playing based on the games that they made, or seeing their end result of their creativity.

Its pretty sweet!

Its pretty sweet!

Other than showing off games, the dynamic is pretty much the same as any other meetup group. You chat with people and you get to network with people. Its interesting to hear different stories of people at the meetups. I once met an artist at one of the earlier meetup events I went to who used to work as a art director for AAA games until he worked on 3 consecutive projects that ended up being cancelled. One of these titles that he worked on was Star Wars 1313 that got cancelled when LucasArts closed its doors about a year ago. At the last night’s event, I also met an individual who specialized in the marketing aspect who knew Pixel for years in prior to his release of Cave Story. With a varying amount of backgrounds from independent game developers, you could also ask about what it is like to work in a certain aspect of game development (such as art). It’s really cool on how they approach on creating their pieces that would be eventually be used in their current project. I even got some tips on how I could explore a certain area of game development that I have always wanted to try out (which I’ll go over that in a later post). Hearing on what people have to say in these conversations is what makes me enjoy the independent gaming community for the type of people that are involved with making games.

Oh and lastly, if you are a game developer that is working on a game that is looking for other people to help you on your projects, going to these kind of meetups is not a bad idea. There is a chance you could meet someone who have the same interests as you have. I have been asked by a couple people if I could contribute to their projects. As much as I would like to help them, I was too busy to set aside my own time. After all, I still have some projects that I would like to revisit in the near future.

Did the last night’s event help spark up my interest in game development? I like to think it did a little bit. I couldn’t have picked a better time to try and spark my passion for game development once more because life has started easing its grip on me, allowing me more time to do what I please. I may be able to start making games in the near future. Perhaps I could explore that aspect that I mentioned earlier on my post in the near future.

That’s all I have for now. Until next time, don’t be strangers!

This post is reposted at Last Token Gaming. Come here to check out the post and give me and the other writers some love!

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Candy Jam/Candy & Watch Saga Postmortem! With Sean Willis!

Welcome back everyone!

On my last post, I talked about a game that I made for Global Game Jam that wasn’t accessible to the public. I also mentioned that I would participate through another game jam and make a game that is more accessible to everyone. Well guess what? That’s what I will be talking about in this post along with my experiences of making a game while being employed.

So the Game Jam that I participated recently was called Candy Jam. The event was organized just to poke fun at King (famous for Candy Crush Saga) in response of their attempt to trademark the word “Candy” into games, which can put on a good restriction on other developers if they wish to make a game involving candy, which can kill the creativity of the games in the future assuming this trademark passes. The rules are simple: Make the game that has words that are associated with King’s games. Specifically, Candy, Saga, Candy, Apple, Memory, Edge, and Scroll. Joining me in my part to troll King for their shenanigans is a fellow Last Token Gaming member named Sean Willis.

Candy & Watch Saga Screenshot

Candy & Watch Saga Screenshot

Sean: Yes the Candy Jam, all about candy and how much the King games company has been hassling developers over the name and inclusion of candy. Crazy really but even crazier is how many other devs jumped in to make well, very odd games. Talking together about the game jam Jake and I came to the conclusion to create a very simple Game and Watch style game.

First concept art

First concept art from Sean

Jake: For those who are not familiar with Game and Watch, it was Nintendo’s handheld gaming predecessor to its well known Game Boy Handheld. It was primitive in everything. Like the background was static and everything else on foreground was just LCD graphics that only light up to make things look like they are moving. But in actually, its just certain spots where sprites turn on and off to give off that illusion.

Sean: Game and Watch games that old now? They were a little before my time as well but LCD games continued being made well into the 90s. Not so much these days but I think Nintendo still makes remakes of their own. For the project the simple style of graphics and simple design seemed like a good idea for our limited time for the project. I find I do better with pixels so I tried to stylize things after the Game and Watch remakes on the Gameboy just to give us some structure to work with quickly. My art is horrible though I’m glad I limited myself to pixels. Heck just look at the background I made. Though I was more worried about providing a layout and design for Jake to know where to program everything. I’m just glad it worked out really.

Unlit LCD background

Unlit LCD background by Sean

Jake: Thats true, I remember owning a few of those LCD games when I was younger. I forgot that Game & Watch started the LCD game trend. I was honestly open to doing either the arcade remake or a Game & Watch Game. If I remember right, we went with the latter to make things easier on both of us. And I’m glad that we did go with what we went with. Since I did all of the programming in the game, it turned out to almost as easy than I thought it would be, despite the fact that were a few hard obstacles I had to tackle. In the end, there were a few things that I wished I had more time to implement.

So what went well for the game?

Sean: I’d say the fact it worked out and is playable at the end. Friends I’ve had play the game say they took a moment to figure out the gameplay but it sunk in quickly. I’m happy my design worked out. Through testing though I’ve found a small problems but in the end they sort of make the game more difficult and kind of fun in that regard. It just goes to show how some mistakes or even a time limit will end up creating fun elements purely by mistake. Art wise though I felt like I could have done a lot more considering I have much more time in my day. It does work out being as simple as it is though. If anyone asks about the animations not working though we can just say its to make the game more authentic to those cheap LCD game knock offs one might find back in the day. So more points for nostalgic authenticy there.

Concept #3

Concept #3

Jake: It was definitely playable for sure. That was the first side project I ever worked on that turned out to be more than interactable. In the past, every side project I worked on I either quit due to obligations, put it on a backburner until I can get back to it, or that it turned out to be interactable. It was also the first project that I did all of the programming for that game from scratch. I was actually shocked that I was able to bring almost all of the functionality to life but it helped reinforce on why we went with Game & Watch idea in the first place. It was also the first game project I attempted to create sounds for the game. The sounds didn’t turn out so bad. When I showed it off to a few people at a meetup meeting, it almost sounded like LCD noises. I knew that I couldn’t replicate those sounds, but for what I had, they turned out decent. More points for old authenticity!

So what went bad for the development?

Sean: You could say nothing did, it all went according to plan but thats like planning to make mistakes rather than focusing on making something work. One learns more from mistakes after all and some mistakes turn out into fun gameplay mechanics. I think I could have managed the design layouts much faster but I wanted to make sure we both contributed to the ideas. Perhaps I’m making excuses for procrastinating but considering we never really spoke much at all before hand the whole experience was just one good mistake in my view. We didn’t argue about our own ideas and mostly joked about in our communications (mostly through Skype) and quickly decided on a goal to achieve. Its not perfect in the end but its a free game and the experience was well worth the time spent in my view. Besides its not like we can’t come back to it later and improve things. I still have some unfinished higher res sprites to complete and I’d like to use them in something. Beauty of using the Unity engine really, its easy to jump back into projects and make updates without rewriting things.

This would be our ideal final version. Just kidding!

This would be our ideal final version. Just kidding!

Jake: There were a couple of things that I wished that it would have went differently: 1) I have a job where I was programming an app for my company. So essentially I spent almost waking moment either coding for my job, or for this game, with the exception of commuting and taking care of basic needs like hygiene and food. Weird that I would put that down considering I’m an indie game developer. With my motivation, there were nights that I stayed up a little late working on the game. But thankfully, it didn’t affect my performance terribly. I had weekends to sleep in. 2) I wished that I allowed Sean to work on the programming aspect sooner. The reason why I held back on that aspect because I thought coding collaboration would consist of using the GIT tool, in which I had serious trust issues with since GIT was the cause of majority of the problems that gave me and the rest of the people I worked with at Global Game Jam event. That was until I discovered that I could have compressed my work in a zip file and send it over to Sean through Skype. By then, I already established my code base in every area of my game. Had I figured it out sooner, that would have helped the game be a little more polished. As far as collaboration is concerned, there weren’t any issues, which definitely made my experience more enjoyable. Thankfully, I can always come back and work on a few things that I missed out on.

That would be all that I have for this post If you are curious about finding out more about the Candy Jam that Sean and I participated in: http://itch.io/jam/candyjam. As I promised on my last post, you can play our very game by going on the link here: http://jakester1013.itch.io/candy–watch-saga-candy-guardian-of-scroll-apple-tower. Just fyi, if you don’t have Unity Web Player installed, it is required for you to do so in order to check out our game! Since I’m finally settled down at my new home, I am going to go back to making posts on a weekly basis. Every other week, I’ll make a post on anything I feel like posting that related to technology while I write an article for Last Token Gaming for the other weeks.

Until then, adios!

Global Game Jam 2014 @ Facebook HQ! My experiences

Howdy ho everyone!

I just settled down from moving to San Jose to start my new job in a neighboring town. What did I do since my move-in at San Jose aside from working at my new job? Oh nothing big. Just participated at the awesome Global Game Jam at the Facebook HQ in Menlo Park!

And got some sweet Facebook swag!

And got some sweet Facebook swag!

Game Jams are contests where you have to form a team and make a game based on a theme that is given to the paticipants in a time period. Some of these jams give the participants 48 hours to make a game, but others give a longer deadline. Global Game Jam is the most well renowned Game Jam known to Game Developers because it is an international event that participants throughout the globe partake in this event. Where could you attend a Global Game Jam event? Well you could go to the GGJ website and find a site that is closest to you. Or you could even create one yourself if there is the closest site too far for you. But of course you have to find some people who would make a game with you.

At the Facebook HQ, we were to make a game that is based on the theme, “We don’t see things as they are, we only see things as we are.” At that point, we had 48 hours to form a team, come up with a game, and go through crunch time to make a game. I ended up in a team with people who I barely knew from college and with people who I had no idea who they were. Despite the lack of familiarity with one another, we managed to come together as one and worked our butts off with some of us getting as little as 3-5 hours of sleep at night.

We ended up making a game that turned out to be…a little more ambitious than we expected. Our idea is to make a Facebook multiplayer game which allows players to log in and then have them play as their profile pictures and have their friends join them. In this game, which is inspired by Agent Smith from The Matrix, you have to tag other people that dont share your persona and transform them into one of you. How did this turned out to be ambitious? In order to implement the multiplayer aspect of the game, you’d have to understand how to implement networking which is essential for making multiplayer games. I dont know exactly how it’s done, but what I do know is that it is one of the hardest features of a game to implement.

We worked our sleep-deprived rear ends off in attempt to make a game that is decent enough for everyone else to play. Despite our best efforts, we ran into a good amount of issues while making the game. If the networking aspect of the game wasn’t hard enough for us to implement, there were times when some of the work that we did that got overwritten by other people’s work. There were also some people (like me) who couldn’t even push their work into the repository. Between those two frustrating factors, we may have lost around 10 – 15 hours worth of work. This was a frustrating experience for people who weren’t familiar with version control software called Git which allows many people to push their work into a repository.

Curse you Git!!!

Curse you Git!!!

Thankfully, one of the team members brought a lot of USB drives, which saved our bacon near the end as it prevented more loss of work.

Despite the fact that nobody knew each other, we worked well together as a team and we did spetacular in contrubiting our efforts. However, at the end of the jam, our game wasn’t as complete as we would have liked. We managed to implement networking along with AI and a good amount of other features. Another sad thing about the outcome is that we could not implement the facebook login like we wanted to on time. In the end, the only way that anyone could play the game is if you have an Access token which is used to debug and test Facebook apps, which, for this game, the token is only known by two of the people I worked with. For this reason, we didn’t upload our game to the Global Game Jam site, so if you were to search for Agent Borg, you wouldn’t find it. The only evidence I could scrape up that says that I made a game is a couple of pictures here.

The only way to ever get in the game

The only way to ever get in the game

The sphere on the top is trying to convert another being into a sphere like itself

The sphere on the top is trying to convert another being into a sphere like itself

I feel bad that the game was limited in access as well as playability. But I am rather pleased with the experience that I had from this year’s Global Game Jam. I leared a alot from working with a bigger group in crunch time. I learned that when working with a big team, you have to figure out on what your role is, what you will do to help out your team, and you gotta work fast in order to get features implemented quickly. And being organized in terms of what the game needs done helps too. And learning how to work with 3-5 hours of sleep a night also helps as well.

Since Agent Borg didn’t turn out well enough for me to share with you guys, I will make it up to you. As of now, me and Sean Willis, a fellow member of Last Token Gaming , are joining forces to make a game for another Game Jam. This Game Jam has already started and we have until next Monday to create a game. What is the theme of this new Game Jam? What game are we making? That will be revealed on my next posting!

Until then, farewell and dont be strangers!