Monday, September 10, 2018

Movie Stars With Flashy Cars and Life With The Top Down

Oh boy I'm living the LA dream now. I went to the Strawberry Game Jam at Glitch City LA.

Glitch City LA is a coworking space created by successful indie devs in LA. It's not quite the Hollywood of game making, which...idk where that would be. Maybe sf. But it's cool.

See, the meetups I go to usually have mostly hobbyists and dreamers, full of passion and naivete. Oftentimes, people are trying to transition from other related fields and most are working on their first game. I fit right in. Hanging out at Glitch City feels like the indie big leagues. The members have actually released games and have expertise. I've been there twice and and I've chatted with a guy who is a game designer on the Last of Us 2, which is the first triple A dev I've ever met. And I met the guy who made Threes (you may have played its clone 2048) and he's also worked at Thatgamecompany. I was first invited to Glitch City by the guy who made Quadrilateral Cowboy (and Thirty Flights of Loving, which was influential to me a long time ago). Also part of their community is the guy who made Hyper Light Drifter, people who worked on Frog Fractions 2, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, and more!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway. It's a cool place and the people are friendly and it feels LA hip. It's in a converted warehouse with a loft, electronic equipment everywhere, open space desks, half empty bags of the trendy flavors of chips, messy fridge, moderately clean bathroom. This is in contrast to the Boston IGC, that shares a coworking space with Kayak in their slick, highly funded, tech startup Cambridge nook, fitting for an episode of Silicon Valley. Not unlike the OC Indies in their highly funded business complex with their delivery pizza, pallets of bottled water, and regularly cleaned floors, which could also do for an episode of Silicon Valley. Whereas the Nashville Indies group that meets in an extremely bland office building after hours and everyone is a little dorky, which would be fitting for an episode of The Office.

To be honest, The Office is better than Silicon Valley. But I do love both. And I can't think of a sitcom that would use Glitch City as a set piece.

I've been to Glitch City for a board game night and I went for their 'game jam', which is really more of a work jam. Glitch City opens to the public from noon to 7 pm on every other Sunday. You pay $10, you work on whatever you want, you can ask for help, about half way thru there's a time when the group gathers and everyone can ask a question, and at the end anyone can showcase what they've been working on. And there's snacks. I ate my fair share of snacks. It's recommended that you eat lunch before you go, since they only have snacks, but whenever I see such recommendations, I figure that my snack intake is generally a fixed rate. So I'm better off not skipping the meal before, from a purely caloric point of view. Nutrition is so complicated!

Right, so what I did with my time was to fix up the reworked solar panel and do some environment art. I'm excited about replacing the old monster spawn structures, which were just brown squares and lines. Going to replace it with a thorny monster den, which can catch fire, and can prick the dogs when they fly over. And with a rocky monster den, which can only be destroyed by cannonballs and ramming. And then in later biomes, or whatever I call the different sets of proc gen rules I come up with for the different levels, I'll make variations of the  monster dens.

Here's a gif from some of the new environment art:

After the jam was over, three of the Glitch City members played my game for about 20 minutes, then talked to me about its design and my goals for another half hour or so.

Here were some of their thoughts:

- Switch the docks on the whale to nests. This is cuter and disambiguates from the 'whale dock' affixed to the islands that the whale docks at. (Simple, perfectly fitting suggestion; implemented it when I got home)

- Can the A button and the X button be consolidated? The A button is used for accessing stations or 'getting on' things, while the X button is for picking up and putting down items. (Sounds like a very desirable goal, but I'm not sure how well it would work with how crowded it gets on the whale and if players' intention would be hard to guess when they're touching, for instance, a dog they might want to mount, the sack of dog food they might want to pick up, and also touching the laser turret underneath the whale flipper they may want to man...idk. I probably ought to try it, test it with folks, and make a decision then. Could be a huge help with the learning curve.)

- Maybe use a mini cam for entering the belly of the whale and make it 'bigger on the inside'. (Imaginative idea. Would allow me to replace the barrel inventory system, which I don't like the aesthetic of. There's something I do like about the consistency of the physical space in the game as it is, however. The treehouse and the buildings take up exactly the space they appear to. Same with the whale. The only time, currently, that I 'cheat' is when the whale enters a beast lair and then gets warped to a big brown cavern for the beast fight. Anyway, low priority at the moment, but maybe.)

- More discovery! They liked the opening area with the fast pace discovery after discovery, such as finding the solar panel, finding flying dogs, finding a whale, packing up the whale...and then that kinda slows down as you get in to combat. (This is a hard one to implement. It's like yeah...I'd love to be full of quirky, novel world building interactivity ideas endlessly, but it's taken me a long time to come up with the ones I got. Tough to replciate the million dollar idea of pegasus dogs....And while I get that the feel of the game once you enter the crew combat is very different from the whimsical discovery beginnings, I love both, and I'm hoping that they can interplay with pacing, help create a full world, and provide replayability)

- Submit to Indiecade? (Turns out I would be too late. And one guy said he'd wait until I'm finished.)

- Try to incorporate more 'physical' UI, such as the inventory circle. Suggested maybe show the area
from which dogs can nest - previously known as docking - on the whale. (I think it's a good idea. Something to keep in mind. I have a few ideas.)

- Why can't the dogs fly over the whale? This would feel more consistent with expectations, one guy said. (Not sure about this one, but I could easily test this out, which I've had it this way before, probably over a year ago tho. Currently, I like the physicality of the game and the things in the air bumping into each other, the dogs with the monsters, the dogs with other dogs, and dogs and monsters with the whale. It also makes it more difficult to access the open nests - previously known as docks - on the whale when your dog is dying. Also, it allows for the dogs to push the whale, which has been helpful in rare instances when the whale has gotten stuck. Idk.)

- The red ring of death looks like it's filling up, instead of being a count down. (To be honest, this was a placeholder animation. I implemented a quick fix when I got home making the ring gradually totally disappear, instead of only the top layer disappearing, which was giving the impression of the ring filling up, because the lower layer, that didn't disappear, was a brighter red. Would like to redo this UI/animation, but low priority atm.)

- One of them, like a minute into it, asked if I'm going to do online multiplayer. Then afterwards when discussing, one said he's not so sure he'd even be interested in playing it online. (Eh. I mean, they're both privileged to be part of a great gaming community with super easy access to local multiplayer on almost any platform. Glitch City has like 20+ coworking members. like 18/20 of my best friends don't live in my state.)

They disliked the idea of simply putting it up on and see what happens and see what people ask for, such as online mp. Maybe putting it on itch would be ok if done in conjunction with other things. (Yeah, I have no idea what to do in terms of marketing and release and community building.....except for Parsec!)

Overall, they said they enjoyed it. Wanted to play more of it and encouraged me to come back to Glitch City, which is in my plans.

Ayaya. Every time I go to blog I say to myself, "This time, only spend half an hour." but then I take a few hours. For no good reason. I reread this post and I just don't understand what took me so long. Whatever, doesn't really Matterhorn. Hafta walk my dog now. Bye bye.