Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Birthday Goal & Thanksigiving Goal

On my BIRTHDAY on November 10th, YOU can play the alpha of FoD Online TM (lol)! By which I mean, you can play maybe modes (1) and (2). On Thanksgiving Day, YOU can play (3) also.

Maybe...I hope.

These are the three planned modes:
(1) Playground 
(2) The treehouse demo (first level of game, offline only right now) 
(3) Gauntlet 

Playground: Basically an an open space where you can mess around alone or with friends. Spawn any items, spawn upgrades for the dogs and whale, spawn enemies to fight, reset the level, whatever. This is goal 1. This is basically my testing space for the interactions between all the stuff in the game. This would synced online. Players can join and quit. This is where I hope lots of bugs can be reproduced and thusly solved.

Treehouse demo: Basically the demo I've shown the past few months, which starts at the Treehouse and ends at the Air River. This mode will be offline only.

Gauntlet: And online version with up to 8 players. Start the whale off with 4 random station upgrades and 6 dogs. Then you play through 3 very basic levels of inreasing difficulty (read: just more enemies probably) over and over. The levels wouldn't spawn new health or upgrades. There would be a high score game, where after any level you can choose to "turn back", which means you have to play through the same number of levels you've already gone through, still with no new whale food or dog food. Your score would be some calculation like:

KILLS x 10 pts + UNEATEN DOG FOOD * 30 pts + GEMS * 50 pts + GOLD = SCORE

BBBbbbuuuttt.....if you successfully "turn back" and make it "home" you'd get like a 2x score bonus. So you can think of two runs that are basically identical. A team plays through 10 levels and then dies with a total of 2500 points. Another team plays thru 5, then "turns back" and makes it through 5 withi a total of score of (2500 x 2) = 5000 pts. Anyway. Just a little gamification!!!


This will be my birthday present to us! I waffle between the self psychological management dilemma of (a) if you  tell people your goals, you're less likely to achieve them, because we get some sort of fake feedback as if we'd already achieved them, simply by telling people and (b) if I tell people my goals, I feel accountable and it can create a kind of deadline, which is motivating. I don't know what the future holds!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

BFIG and John Carmack Highlights

BFIG Highlights:

  • @turtleverse showing up at my booth before I realized the festival had begun and handing me his two votes and proceeding to play the demo.
  • Seeng two little kids who were terrible at my game and I thought were getting really frustrated and never got past the thorny vines north of the treehouse, but I never talked to them or tried to help them and they left. But like an hour later I saw one of them come back and give me her votes. 
  • Seeing a family of four who were terrible at my game and I thought they were getting really frustrated and didn't get past the thorny vines north of the treehouse, and I only talked to them once*. But like an hour later the mom came back and gave me several votes.
  • Having the 12 year old kid I used to mentor as part of Big Brother Little Brother program help me in the booth. Especially playing balloon soccer while everyone else was packing up their booths.
  • @turtleverse bringing back more of his friends to check out Flock of Dogs
  • Seeing a group of young adults play my game and thinking they had come as a friend group and then finding out they had just met each other and secretly hoping the guy would ask for the girl's number and somehow Flock of Dogs could be credited with bringing together two lovers, but I don't think it happened.
  • Chatting with the game devs next to me (makers of Hexile) and across from me (maker of Katie) and behind me (makers of Austen Translation) and down the aisle (makers of Skorcery).

*The time I helped them was because they revealed a bad design by me. They accidentally landed on the island of the thorny vines north of the treehouse. But they didn't know how they landed (holding A) and they didn't know to take off (also holding A). But once they accidentally took off again they were trapped between the thorns and the floating tetromino anyway. Bad design. I've since restructured where/when landing is taught/is possible.

Um. Yeah, who knows about the marketing value of going to events like this. But having this kind of deadline and getting to see people play my game is really cool. I could make a separate list of highlights for just being back in Boston, most of which would be playing with two of my old soccer teams and winning all my games and scoring some sweet goals and hanging out with old friends.

Anyway, I came across this quote from John Carmack. And I've bolded, italicized, and changed the text color of the part I found encouraging!:

I spent a lot of time last week at Oculus Connect giving advice to developers across the App Reviews, Start session, and hallway conversations.

Since we started, my reaction to the vast majority of mobile VR titles has been that they have fairly straightforward tactical quality and design points that have failed to be addressed.
Many of these are almost checklist things, and I have pointed a lot of them out over the various app reviews I have posted.

However, it is possible to check all the boxes and still wind up with a competently implemented game that just doesn’t have any soul.
I see a lot of games that are aimed at filling a slot — “a FPS”, “a strategy game”, “a puzzle game”, “a space game”, “a roller coaster”, and so on.
“Doing reps” with game development is an important part of growing your skill set, and generally a necessary step on the path to doing something important, but don’t be surprised when the project with all that time and effort poured into it vanishes without a trace in the market.

If you intend to do reps, plan and optimize your strategy around maximizing your experience gained while still producing something of modest value with little expectation of return. When you want to make an impact, I think the most important advice is:
Build something that at least some people LOVE.

Games are a matter of taste, which varies widely. Hitting on something that everyone thinks is fantastic is unlikely. If it turns out that you have made something that at least a few people are ecstatic about, even if lots of people think it is garbage, then you have a better kernel to grow from than something that is widely considered just ok.

For instance, I'll stand up for Daedalus and Thumper. Bait and Pet Lab aren't really to my taste, but I know people that do love them. There is definitely something there. On the other hand, there are hundreds of games on our store that have probably never gotten a single heartfelt customer recommendation.

The difference between something you use and something you love is the details, both engineering and design.

We have had some borderline-acrimonious discussions internally around “delight” — I argue that applications should be functional first, because delight doesn’t last, and often comes at the expense of efficient function. Games are different, and many can almost be viewed as essentially just a sequence of delightful interactions.

Watch your players very carefully as they play. The smile, grin, cheer, or even focused look of intensity is your signal to chase. Design inspiration may provide the initial points, but hard work iterating on it is how you hill-climb to the best version.

If you have even a few true fans, keep your project alive! VR is still very young, and most of the potential players of your game haven’t even thought about buying a headset yet. Land’s End was a great experience three years ago, and it is still a great experience today.
This is easy to screw up. I wanted to go back and add some things to the old Oculus Arcade project, but I found that it hadn’t been archived with all of the support libraries, and I wasted an afternoon trying (and failing) to get it building with current systems.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

BFIG Judge Mayor Max

Listen, I totally don't care at all about winning awards. What I truly care about is getting nominations. And I realize I've made a huge mistake. Or maybe I simply just don't belong. When you submit to BFIG, you have to pick a category for your game. These were the options:

"Compelling game Mechanics"
"Innovation in Art and Design
"Experimental Game Design"
"Multiplayer and Connected Gameplay"

Both last year and this year I've chosen "Multiplayer and Connected Gameplay" as my category. Described thusly:

The Multiplayer and Connected Gameplay category seeks games that promote a shared experience with multiple people at its core. This includes both online and local multiplayer games. Local games include traditional turn-based play by sharing a controller and simultaneous play by having multiple people play using the same controller or multiple controllers at once. We are looking for games that are enticing to bystanders, encouraging those not playing to be a part of the experience. This can include the audience guiding the individual(s) playing, aiding the player(s) by sharing information, cheering for a close match, and anything else that can make a spectator feel invested in the game even if they aren’t the ones directly playing it. Games designed with live streaming in mind that compliment game streaming culture are highly encouraged. 
Examples of games:Towerfall, DayZ, Rocket League, Jackbox Party Pack 
This is the Category for You If……you would like your game to be judged primarily by its multiplayer experience, both as a player and as a spectator.

And I should have learned. Because after you submit, you get some judges to play your game and provide personalized feedback, whether or not you're accepted into the festival (which is awesome). Last year, I noticed that the question prompts that the judges use for their feedback didn't apply very well to my game. What I didn't realize is that they were specific to my category. So this year, when I submitted my game and choose the same category and got back the same form with the same questions, I realized that my game just doesn't fit the "Multiplayer and Connected Gameplay" as it is judged. These were the questions the judges used to evaluate Flock of Dogs [my own responses if I were in a judge are in brackets below]:

1. Controls: Are the controls easy to pick up and understand?

[Flock of Dogs has very many different control schemes, bc there seems to be a limitless number of ridiculous and wondrous things you can do in this game! Admittedly, the recent changes to whale piloting has been frustrating for some, but I hear the dev plans to change that ASAP. Also, many fine folk are not familiar with twin-stick shooters and that has a learning curve, but pays out in the end because of the sweet feeling of twin-stick action! So neither here nor there for 'easyness'.]

2. Competition: How well does this game bring out the competitive side of you when playing with others? 

[Flock of Dogs provides a much needed respite from the deluge of competitiveness in multiplayer games and especially local multiplayre games. There is no PvP, so no arena or rounds. There is the flock and the whale and they either fly or fall together. And where the few games that claim to provide a system for cooperation, you're often left still imbrued in underhanded competition for high score, or being the first to collect loot. Flock of Dogs outstandingly creates a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself, more important than your self. Like mopping a dirty whale. Or protecting the pups of the flock, while your brother and sister dog riders fend off flying monsters. Or something. So basically like anti-competitiveness.]

3. End Game: When someone wins the game, does it feel fairly awarded? Does the winner feel a sense of accomplishment beating others?

[Can someone have the dev notify me know when someone gets to the end of Flock of Dogs, pls? I've literally played this game for hundreds of hours and I seldom get to the third level. From treehouses, to whalesmiths, to beast caves, to floating sky inns, there's so much to discover. And also I always feel like a winner, so I don't what it feels like to not feel like how I feel so...N/A.]

4. Audience Engagement: Does a bystander watching the game feel invested in the experience? Are they likely to provide advice during the game to a friend or root for a player or certain outcome?

[Most bystanders don't know what the heck is going on tbh, oftentimes approaching the screen feeling compelled to utter their thoughts, "What is going on?" I've heard the dev mutter that they hate explaining to people 'what is going on' or answering 'what am I supposed to do' because they've created a new display of the fantastic in the form of a video game, which is supposed to be played and discovered. If the Flock of Dogs dev wanted to write a book, (well, I heard they want to write a book, too) then they'd have written a book. I might offer an extremely minimal critique, which some might even say is a plus, but while the bright colors are alluring, providing hope in a dismal, irony-saturdated, post 2016 world, the imagery is a little busy, difficult to determine what's important. The environmental art is unfinished and there is difficulty in distinguishing between ineratctable objects and cosmetic details. The relentless hue saturation is also fatiguing to the eye, but I heard the developer is struggling with restricting his palette while maintaining readability while having up to 8 players on screen together. I do not envy him or her. Also, the music, both the intro tune created by the dev's cousin and the song that ushers in the beginning of the adventure that was created by the dev's step brother, are lovely. Audiences cannot be pulled away.]

5. One More Turn: How likely are you to continue playing after the game has ended and a winner is declared?

[Very, very likely.]

6. Streamer Appeal: Is this a game a Twitch audience may find enjoyable to watch and interact with?

[Belies a misunderstanding of Twitch. In my experience, one watches (a) games one is into and/or (b) streamers that one finds charming. Actual Twitch integration seems gimmicky and doesn't really drive regular viewership, except for maybe that marbles game. Anyway, pretty sure I saw Lirik and LethalFrag wearing Flock of Dogs t-shirts on stream the other day. So yeah. Huge appeal.]

7. Final Comments/Suggestions for Developers (Open Ended): Please say a few final words to the developer about their game including suggestions moving forward with the game and if there were any technical difficulties starting or playing the game. 

[This game is a miracle. From one dev to another, my highest respects. I simply cannot wait until you finish this game. Believe in yourself and your beautiful, sensitive, heart.]


Welp, I won't pretend to understand how, but Flock of Dogs didn't receive a nomination for best "Multiplayer and Connected Gameplay" game.