Thursday, 30 June 2016

Striving for perfection in Game Development

I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to pretty much everything I do. This personality trait has a lot of strengths such as producing high-quality work but it comes at the expense of that work taking longer to produce. I’m going to try to explain in this blog some of the reasons behind the choices I’ve made while designing and developing to hopefully give you a better understanding into the way I work.


Apple’s attention to detail
Back in 2006 I knew relatively little about Apple Inc. I knew they did iPods but I was comfortable listening to music on my Sony Ericsson K800i so didn’t pay much attention to Apple back then.
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Side note: I still have this phone in a cupboard somewhere


The release of the iPhone was when I started to pay attention. I’d even say I became slightly obsessed. I took note of their sleek website as well as how their products were designed to be super easy to use. The word intuitive became a very central concept to my projects and it’s not difficult to understand why. If you instinctively know how to perform an action the technology allowing you to perform said action in a sense melts away and you become immersed in the experience. This happened with the original Wiimote. You’d be playing Wii Sports Tennis and automatically know how to play, the Wiimote quickly became a surrogate tennis racket. No further learning required. Well unless you don’t know the rules of Tennis but that’s beside the point.


When developing Skorian Tales (The mobile role-playing game by Late Panda *wink*) we’re trying to create an experience for the player so having an intuitive control scheme and user-interface is something I stress over and over trying to get it perfect. We’ve set up focus groups to gather feedback from players and we’re constantly adapting the game to make it more intuitive for everyone. The game is currently available to download so you can test it out yourself.


That Lore Tho
I love A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect and The Lord of the Rings. Mainly because of the lore surrounding these worlds. When I first played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion I was blown away with the amount of depth the world had to offer. I’d spend hours of The Elder Scrolls Wikipedia pages learning about the history, continents and cultures of Nirn. The fact that you can create a game with such a level of depth usually lost on more casual players intrigues me to no end.


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I can’t deny the aforementioned list is personally a huge source of inspiration for Skorian Tales. Stephen and I carefully link past Skorian events together making sure of lore stays consistent with the cultures and the evolutions of the five main species and with the planet as a whole. I believe everything in the game should be developed thoroughly. This includes things like how a weapon was developed over time down to how the fictitious weapon could theoretically work in the world of Skoria.


I do this knowing fine well that some people might never learn or even care to learn how certain Skorian items work. Nevertheless I do this because I know there are people like me out there. We feel worlds are richer and more alive when smaller details are thought out and can be presented to us one way or another.


Sometimes it does annoy Stephen though because I obsess over the teeny tiniest of details. I do also believe it’s important to know when to stop :P


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I hope you enjoyed that,
Ellie xx

‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away’ - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thursday, 23 June 2016

IGDA Exhibiting Event

So today I wanted to talk about exhibiting at gaming events.




Yesterday Late Panda attended the IGDA monthly meetup at the MEGAbytes cafe in Glasgow. This event’s theme was Exhibiting with guest speakers Andrew and Craig from We Throw Switches, Steven Taarland from Insert Imagination as well as Tag Games and Anthony Gowland from Ant Workshop. They each shared their experience from the event from an organiser perspective and from an exhibitor’s.




During the event Andrew and Craig spoke about event organisation, how they make sure that games that reflect well off each other are more likely to be put together. This means that louder more action packed games are unlikely to be next to a quieter peaceful experience requiring immersion. They also spoke about how the event organisers chose possible exhibitors, with a mix of recommendations from other trusted game companies or direct email from the company itself requesting to exhibit and from them actively seeking out new and innovating talent.


Anthony and Steven spoke about attended several events and how the exhibitor must understand what they are likely to get from whatever event they are attending. Some events might be best for testing such as Dare to be Digital, others are to build business to business connections such as GDC (Games Developer Conference). Steven spoke about his game To-Tum and how events like Dare to be Digital allowed his company to either find bugs or gain advice on how to improve the experience. While Anthony spoke about his game Binaries and how the advice gained during these events changed the project and improved it over time.


After the event we attended another Bert Wednesdays event with some of the developers at the IGDA event. This gave me the opportunity to chat directly with Andrew and Craig from We Throw Switches about their event organisation and Late Panda’s history with exhibiting. We discussed our attendance at this year's GDC in San Francisco and that it was our first ever event, to which the response was “baptism by fire” which I believe is very appropriate given the scale of the event.


The IGDA exhibiting event helped us greatly as we will be exhibiting at Resonate from July 29th - 31st at the Glasgow SECC. The advice that we gained from this event will greatly increase the quality of our stand as well as how we present our game and company at the event.




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Thanks for reading,
Stephen.

“The neutralizer to fear is self belief” — Mark Bouris

Thursday, 16 June 2016

PlayExpo

We were invited to attend the PlayExpo on the 11th and 12th of June courtesy of MCFrank PR and Replay Events.

PlayExpo is a set of gaming conventions taking place across Britain this year. There’s plenty to do as they host game tournaments, showcase indie developers and the latest in Virtual Reality; they also have Minecraft, guest speakers, cosplay and so much more. Oh you can also purchase some classics while you’re there.

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They were in Blackpool 30th April - 1st of May, Glasgow 11th - 12th June and they’ll be in Manchester on the 8th - 9th of October. If you’re into your games and your Manchesters I’d advise you get tickets as they’re still available. http://www.playexpomanchester.com/tickets/.

I sent Stephen along to the one in Glasgow and here are his top three memorable mentions.

Observatorium
Observatorium is a narrative driven puzzle game. You take on the role of Kit as you travel across the sea, decode lost transmissions, and uncover fragments of a mysterious signal emanating from space.



Fragmental
Fragmental is intensive multiplayer twin-stick shooter with some of the fastest and most frantic gameplay around. It’s available on Steam’s early access.
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Blue Revolver
Blue Revolver is a fancy new top-down shooter. You control a character called Mae a bunny-eared technical genius, as she takes on the forces of "Blue Revolver"!

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I hope you enjoyed that,
Ellie xx

“Always have something to look forward to” — Tony Robbins

Thursday, 9 June 2016

In defense of Early Access

So the Pre-Alpha of Skorian Tales has been out for 1 week and it gave me an idea for a new blog post, how about we talk about early access?

Before you run off hissing at the early access model, give me a chance to strike up a defense. The pre-alpha release of Skorian Tales has given us a chance to find out what players think of the core gameplay mechanics of the game long before a commercial release. We see a great future with the early access model, working with the community to build the best possible mobile role playing game that we can. If you’d like to help us out you can play the game on Android and/or the web. Feedback is anonymous and if constructive can be very useful for us going forward.

Lets draw on a famous example of early access done well, Minecraft. With the classic version released back in May 2009 followed by the Alpha in June 2010, Minecraft slowly began to develop a larger and larger audience with Markus “Notch” Persson finally able to work full time on the development of the game later in it’s life. With each update players were able to give direct input about the latest features and the large community was able to construct the best version of the game possible. Now with over 23 million registered users Minecraft has grown significantly since its 2009 development version.

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There are many companies out there that strive to make the best game possible by building the it up over time with a community of users, but the overuse and manipulation of the early access model makes it harder and harder for those companies to survive. Horror stories from sites like Kickstarter tell tales of people contributing to projects and seeing no reward from it. However, in some cases the early access model can be the only way an indie developer can get their game released. Revenue generated early on means these developers can keep themselves afloat so the game they pour their souls into has a greater chance to be completed.



The game itself benefits greatly from the early access model with the player’s ability to contribute ideas this may lead to an improved player experience. The players also act as a focus group for bug testing, giving the developer the chance to implement fixes to improve the game’s functionality.

There are also benefits to the players themselves, not only do they get the chance to contribute to the game itself and help build what the final version will be, but many early access games give the player exclusive rewards for being involved. This may be as simple as an exclusive item or the ability or to just get the game at a cheaper price.

There is always going to be a risk with the early access model but in my opinion the positives will always outweigh the negatives. If you feel differently you can leave a comment. I’m interested to know your thoughts on this topic.

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Thanks for reading,
Stephen.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week” — George Patton

Thursday, 2 June 2016

How to play Skorian Tales early!


Did you know you can play the Skorian Tales pre-alpha right now on Android and on the web?

By the end of this post you’ll know how to get and play Skorian Tales but first here’s a little disclaimer. Skorian Tales as it is, is currently a pre-alpha. This means that the game is in the very early stages of development and does not reflect the end product.

How to play on Android
You can download the game for Android by scanning this QR code or following the Download Skorian Tales Pre-Alpha Link Here
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This will download Skorian Tales (.apk) to your device and you may be prompted to allow unknown sources. This is because the game isn’t yet available on the Official Android Play Store.

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How to play on the Web
Playing on the web is super easy. Click on the Play Skorian Tales Pre-Alpha on the Web link here. The game should work on any modern (WebGL Supported) web browser like Chrome, Firefox etc.

Tutorial
We’re working on implementing a tutorial in-game to help players if they get stuck or lost. In the meantime here’s a crude screenshot and MS Paint style tutorial.

Once you’ve chosen your characters gender and name you’ll be taken to the main city. To move your player just tap anywhere and they will move to that position. To talk to a character just tap on them.
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You can also tap the menu icon to trigger a random battle or go to your settings.

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When in a battle you’re accompanied by a Salk to give you a hand. You can tap on the enemies to do a basic attack or you can drag a ‘special’ to do more damage. Specials use Action Points and if you run out you won’t be able to use your specials. You can run away from the battle if things are getting a little hairy and you can also toggle Auto-battle so the game can continue without you if you wish to do so.

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Feedback
Throughout the game you’ll have a chance to submit feedback. This takes you to a very short survey. We ask all who play to leave feedback as it helps us out a lot.

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Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the game, Ellie xx
“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”  - Mario Andretti