Archives by Month - September 2009

Indie Game Blogs

4:53 PM September 25, 2009
My last post mentioned that lately I have been enjoying reading some indie game blogs. I find the mixture of game development topics such as technology tips, indie game business strategies, game design discussion and homebrew community involvement very refreshing. There are all sorts of interesting topics being discussed out there. If you are at all interested in these topics, here are some of the indie game blogs that I follow:

Wolfire Games:
This small independant game studio has a lot of interesting blog posts about game tech, marketing strategies, game music and anything else about indie game development that you can think of. They also update really frequently (almost daily). Wolfire are currently working on a sequel to their first shareware game Lugaru, and it's called Overgrowth. This upcoming 3D action adventure game is interesting in that they are releasing weekly alpha builds of the game to anyone that pre-orders the final game. So you can actually play with and test the game as they make it, or start modding it (as they are also including mod tools for their game) right away. It's an interesting strategy for sure. Here are a few of their recent blog posts that I've really enjoyed:

Indie Games Blog:
A lot of the news and information I get about upcoming indie games comes from this blog. They compile and list news about upcoming indie games and provide enough links, demos, videos and other content to satisfy any indie game lover's needs. It is often updated multiple times every day, depending on the flow of game news.

Blurst is an indie game site run by Flashbang Studios that has been making big splashes in the indie web game scene. Their strategy is to design, prototype, and build 1 mini web game every 8 weeks. This is a very short amount of time to do all of that and produce polished and fun games, but they've been doing it for over a year now. The best part is that all their games are free to play on their website using the Unity3D web player (that's right, they use Unity too). They also have a centralized score and acheivements system for all their games. Additionally, you can choose to pay a small fee to download standalone builds of all their games if you want to play outside of their website. Aside from all the fun games, they also publish a blog with interesting discussions about their company (they are surprisingly open about their business model and strategies), game technology tips (great for Unity developers like myself) and other interesting tidbits about the biz.

Sophie Houlden:
Sophie is an independant game developer who loves making little Unity based games and releasing them for free on her website. She often writes in her blog about her work and shares playable protoypes as she progresses. She is currently continuing work on her large RPG game, but often takes breaks from that to release quick little games every so often. One of the more recent ones is called BOXGAME and it is a really cool little puzzle game you can play for free from her site:

All these blogs and games help to fuel and inspire my game development, and there is clearly a LOT of content out there to absorb. It's definitely an exciting time to be involved in the indie game scene. Do any of you have some great indie game sites you care to share?

Bank Shot (AKA OddBall)

5:27 PM September 24, 2009
What is Bank Shot? It has nothing to do with actual banks. As mentioned in my last post, Bank Shot is the working title of the iPhone game I am currently working on. About 4 months ago I started working with the Unity3D game engine and learning how to develop games with it. I have some previous game development experience, and of course my day job has been as a software developer for the last 9 years, but the Unity engine was brand new to me. So for the last few months I've been reading tutorials (both for Unity and game development in general), testing code and art, and researching various elements of the whole indie game business. Slowly but surely I am becoming more comfortable with this great game development tool, and I'm having a lot of fun too.

I had a few iPhone game ideas written down when I first started using Unity, but I've since put those on the back burner. One of the first things I did with Unity when I started learning it was to fool around with the physics emulator by creating a bouncing ball and various blocks and objects to interact with. This invariably led to a bunch of code and "playground" type prototypes that I built to learn the ins and outs of the physics functionality. And eventually this grew into a little game idea with structure and goals that has since become Bank Shot. The game is currently far from complete, but it only made sense for me to combine my prototype and learning work into something that is usable for a game. Plus, I think the game concept is a great target for the iPhone: it uses a fairly simple mechanic, it offers both real-time interactivity and methodical puzzle solving strategies, and it is easy to pick up and play for a few short minutes while still offering a good amount of depth and replayability.

So, what is the basic gameplay of Bank Shot then? Well, based on my description above it obviously involves manipulating physics-based balls through a series of puzzles. The game is broken up into a series of levels. Each level is a puzzle that must be solved. The goal of every puzzle is to aim and fire 3 physics-based balls out of a cannon and score them into a basket. Sounds simple right? Well it is, at its heart. But to add variety and depth to the game, I've designed various ball effects, powerups and level interactions. For starters, you have 3 different types of balls that each behave slightly differently. One is a bouncing ball, another is a more "floaty" sponge ball and the last is a heavy metallic ball. So they all behave differently with the game physics. There are also 4 different powerups that can be applied to the balls for brief periods of time to help solve level puzzles and to get around obstructions. One powerup lets you stick to surfaces, another extends a parachute to make the ball float, the third turns your ball into a heavy anvil to drop quickly with force, and the last one is a boost action that adds a burst of velocity to your ball in any given direction. By using these powerups in combination with each other and with the other balls, and by carefully planning out your shots, each level can be completed in a variety of ways.

On top of this basic gameplay there is also a points system where you will be trying to complete each level with the highest possible score by collecting items and using the least number of shots. So while Bank Shot is a simple concept at its core, I think it has enough depth to keep it interesting. It fits nicely with the type of iPhone games I currently enjoy playing. But while I'm designing and aiming to release this as an iPhone game, the beauty of Unity's cross-platform engine is that I could also release this game as a web plugin (like a Flash game) and as a standalone PC and Mac game. I haven't worked out the final details of the business side of this project. At the very least, Bank Shot is a learning experience for me both for game development and for the business side of the indie game scene. So my main goal is to gain experience and learn from this project. And I have a lot to learn. So far I'm enjoying every part of it. I only wish I had more spare time to dedicate towards this project.

So what does Bank Shot currently look like? Right now the game is a work in progress with most of the finished work being code. I do plan to post updates of the graphics as the game progresses so people can see it evolve, but there really isn't much to show at this stage. You can definitely expect some more graphical updates in the near future, and eventually a playable web demo. For now you will just have to use your imagination based on the description above and the knowledge that it is designed for the iPhone.

In the coming weeks and months I plan to continue posting blog entries about my development. I've been really enjoying reading other indie blogs about what they are working on, the problems they face and the types of technology and choices they make for their projects. Reading along as they develop their games and business strategies is really fascinating and has garnered my interest in their projects. So I plan to do something similar here to share what I'm learning, what I'm creating, the problems I will encounter and also as a way to elicit feedback. Consider this my first post in that vein. I think my next post will list some of the other blogs I've been enjoying and learning from as I'm sure some of you will enjoy them too. Lastly, to end this post I'd like to see if anyone has suggestions for my game's current title. The idea of the "Bank Shot" title is that you are planning complicated shots where your balls will be bouncing off objects to get around obstacles. So you will be "banking" your shots off walls and such. What do you think? Any suggestions?

This entry posted by Graham in OddBalls  |  Comments (1)
Tags: Game Development, iPhone, Unity3D

What is Up in the World of Me?

11:37 AM September 20, 2009
So what is up in the world of me lately? I haven't posted any updates recently aside from the regular podcast entries. The reason of course, is that I've been busy with various projects as usual (which is a bad reason I know). So I thought I'd write this post to update the world on my happenings, and also to flesh out some of my tasks in my own head so I can better prioritize myself.

Last week I started a nighttime photography class at Camosun College to continue learning and improving with one of my many hobbies. So far the class seems perfect for my current level of technical photography skills and will definitely increase my knowledge. When I went to the class with my camera last week I realized that I still had over 800 photos sitting on my card that I haven't filtered through yet. These include photos from my trip to Saltspring Island, a house party, and various other events in the last month or two. So when I finally get around to sorting through those (which will be soon as I will be needing the card space for my class) there will be lots of new reasons and content for me to post on this here old blog.

I've also been doing a few small contract jobs on the side for an old friend. He has recently started his own business and I'm enjoying helping him out with a few small technical projects. And the little bit of extra money those projects provide is definitely helping in these tight times. A few weeks ago our dishwasher broke and my car decided it wanted me to spend a King's ransom (or at least a Prince's) on fixing it. So I've also been spending some time in "fixer mode" around our place. This weekend I've been getting around to putting up more of my wall art (photos, paintings, etc.) on the walls. In doing so I discovered that one of my favourite framed prints had broken glass and was scraped so I've been busy trying to repair it.

All in all these are pretty minor things, but they've been pressing on my mind lately because they are taking away free time that I want to spend working on my new iPhone game. A while ago I posted about my continued interest in game development and I've been working steadily on learning Unity3D (a 3D game engine) and developing my first planned mini-game with it. I've also been doing a lot of reading on game development tips and following some indie game developer blogs. I'm really excited about continuing my venture in the indie game world. While I've been reading, learning, and developing I've become really inspired and I've written out 9 different game design ideas for possible projects. So I have a lot of creative juice and focus in this area and I'm looking forward to continuing to grow in this part of my life. I will be showing more of my first game soon (a physics-based puzzle game), along with some planned development diary style blog posts. Currently the gameplay is mostly just functional without much in terms of graphics or content. But I hope to be able to spend more of my free time focused on it in the coming months.

Speaking of which, my stomach is growling and I need some mental fuel. It's time to go power up with a Tim Horton's lunch and some caffeine. After that (and after picking up a new piece of glass for my broken print) I will be returning to game development mode. I'll leave you with the current working title of the game, which is "Bank Shot".

Home with House ep22 - Just a Taste

9:40 PM September 6, 2009
This month's Home with House podcast episode is another mix focusing on the funk. Episode 22 starts off with a soulful vibe, moves into some bassy funk and then finishes off with a few big funky and vocal tracks.

As usual I tried to progressively build the energy and groove with this mix and its funky theme really helps move it along at a good pace. I hope you enjoy episode 22, this one is called "Just a Taste".

"Just a Taste" tracklisting:

1. d-t3ch - Understand The Culture (HoodFellas Remix)
2. The Candy Dealers - Time (Original Mix)
3. Timmy Vegas and The Universe Band feat. Jennifer Wallace - Can't Make it Thru Another Day (Grant Nelson Remix)
4. Jay West - Power To Create (Magnus Wedberg Remix)
5. 4Tune Twins - Feel So Good (Original Mix)
6. Organized Crime - Downtown Brown (Original Mix)
7. Sonny Fodera - Blast It (Original Mix)
8. Toby Neal - Standing Tall (Original Mix)
9. Sonny Fodera - Moondance (Original Mix)
10. The Montanas - Play It (Hott 22 Remix [Seamus Haji Re-edit])
11. Random Soul - Better Place (Yogi & Huskies Synthetic Mix)
12. Seamus Haji - Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (Stonebridge Remix)

Download Episode 22:
Title: Home with House ep22 - Just a Taste
Vibe: Funky House, Groove House, Jackin House, Vocal House
Date Recorded: September 2009
Length: 62:25 min
Quality: 192 kbps - 88 Mb

Download:  (Right-click and Save As)
  •  CD Cover
  •  Tracklist

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