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!

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Bo & Yana: A dynamic duo to help a child learn programming while having fun!

Hello again lovelies!

My apologies for a late post! I have been busy since the later part of last week because I was in a mix of different things, including my brother’s graduation from Chiropractor School, my apprenticeship course on programming in Java, and interview with a company named SOASTA (which didn’t go well).

I want to make corrections that I have made on my previous posts.

In the post I have made about Google Fiber, it has brought to my attention that the speed of the internet is measured in bits per second, not bytes per second. So Google Fiber runs 1 Gigabit per second. Bits and bytes do make the difference in terms of speed (8 bit =  1 byte). So the numbers are off in terms of time as well so I apologize for providing inaccurate information. A 10Mbps user would get Walking Dead season 3 in about 9 minutes while a Google fiber user would get it in 5.5 seconds(but still fast!!!)

And on my last post, I want to verify that when I said PS4 lacked of original titles, I was talking about in terms of AAA titles, like Ryse: Son of Rome for Xbox One. I forgot to add the ‘aside from indie games’ right after mentioning its lack of titles and I apologize for that as well. I will be more careful next time when I make future posts.

Without further ado, I want talk about something I recently discovered that I think it is really awesome (with bias aside, as I am a programmer myself). I was going to cover Amazon Prime flight drones, but I find this more fascinating because it can help make teaching kids programming easier on the parents. If you want me to cover Amazon Prime drones in a future posting, let me know!

We all know that the tech industry is booming. In about 10 years, the technology would expand significantly as we will have more devices and systems to operate with in our daily lives to make things easier, which means more technical/programming jobs are needed to be filled in. If you want to excel at anything, like piano playing or construction, then it would be best to start early at a young age. Kids who are aspiring to be great pianists should start with a piano, or the closest thing that their parents could afford to a piano. Kids who want to build things should be given Legos of some sort to play with. How about when you want to teach your kids programming? Well writing lines of code could be fun for people 16+ given the right mindset, but tykes at age 7 would rather play with Legos or other toys than to sit at a computer and learn how to write lines of code. This is where Bo and Yana come in.

Stepping into the playground are Bo and Yana! Bo is a bigger robot built for following programming commands from children and Yana, the smaller robot, has the capabilities of storytelling!

Stepping into the playground are Bo and Yana! Bo is a bigger robot built for following programming commands from children and Yana, the smaller robot, has the capabilities of storytelling!

Play-i’s Bo & Yana are both toy robots that are designed to teach kids programming through interactive storytelling in a way that is appealing for kids. Now how exactly could the kids program the robots? Well, the kids interact with Bo by using a iPad device. You’d just have to worry about connecting Bo to iPad via bluetooth and the child is ready to play! The iPad app allows the kid to program commands through different icons. Kids can create a combination of icons that can make the robot do many things, such as turning right and moving forward when it bumps to a wall. There are also a variety of accessories for the robots that open even more possibilities of interaction . I’ll leave a video here so you can see more of what these two cute robots do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLDQDaPHy9E.

Another cool thing about this is when the kids get older and want to expand their coding skills, there is a way you could do that. Parents have many options of different programming languages they could program into these robots, so they could learn Python or C++ or whatever languages the parents desired.

If you are ever so curious about getting these robots now, Play-i is currently taking pre-orders for their product. They have already sold out the developer packs where you could get the API to tinker with the robots’ functionalities (and define the programming language) along with Bo and Yana. But other options are still open, and it is wise to get the pre-order now, as the prices will increase when they hit retail shelves in Summer 2014.

What do you guys think about teaching kids programming? I feel that these robots would be great for your kid if you want them to learn programming to order for them to make a good living for themselves (that is, if you want them to go on the path of programming). There is a possibility that kids could play with this indoors all of the time and not spend enough time outside. Of course, that could be fixed by making them spend a certain amount of time outside (with or without Bo and Yana). If I was a 7 year old child, I would spend my free time with Bo & Yana(aside from video games) if iPads existed back in the day, remembering that I loved toys that allowed interaction in my earlier years.

That is all I have for this week. I wanted to show off a personal game project that I have been working on, but I have been busy with many affairs on the side, including an apprenticeship class that I’m currently taking and tinkering around with a couple of existing projects. I can tell you as of my last post that I have made some progress on it, but not as much progress as I would have liked. Hopefully, when my apprenticeship is over on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22, the pace will then pick up. I can promise that when I reveal my personal game project, that I’ll have a prototype ready for you guys to play with it! In the meantime, I can show off what I have been tinkering with hopefully on my next post!

Until then, don’t be strangers!