Thursday, 22 June 2017

What's going on with 1GAM

Hey everyone,

We missed last week's blog but I’ll catch you up on what we have been doing and what our plans are for the future.

So in my last blog I talked about our choose your own adventure noir detective game titled She Whispers In Shadows that we started developing as part of the 1GAM (One GameAMonth) challenge that we set ourselves at the beginning of the year. Well let’s just say things don’t always go as well as planned and we are not going to reach our deadline for May, obviously.

That said we do still plan to finish She Whispers In Shadows as we think it is an interesting concept for a choose your own adventure title. We will start with a short demo that showcases the type of gameplay that can be expected while we finish off the rest of the script for all of the possible endings. Once She Whispers In Shadows has been finished we plan to move back to developing Trapped, our Gear VR horror title.

During April we created the demo for Trapped and released it via our website until we could finish the full version. But since we committed to the 1GAM challenge we moved on from the game quickly to keep up with the challenge even though we felt like it was the best title to come from the challenge thus far.

Recently we have decided that we will no longer be developing games as part of the 1GAM challenge and instead we will focus entirely on updating the game we have already completed. This will allow us to add features we couldn’t within the timeframe and allow us to have a longer deadline rather than sticking to the 1 month development schedule we had during the challenge. I thought it would be best to go through the changes we have planned for our currently released titles to give you all an idea of what we will be doing.

I’ll start with our idle game Qbits since that was our first 1GAM title, and there are very few changes we want to make to this title. The main problem with Qbits is the math involved with game progression, eventually the game plays itself requiring no input from the player while they gain exponentially more money making the game exponentially easier. This is a relatively easy problem to solve, once the correct equations are made the game will be at the state we wanted to release it at initially. However, we would like to further update the game with more upgrades and playability as the upgrade system at the moment is a basic version of what we planned to add during development.

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Next up is Echoes of Hope, our narrative experience we created in February. Echoes of Hope was always meant to be a project that focused on sensitive issues, dealing with them in a mature but gentle way. We created this project in the hopes that in comforting issues that many people around the world may be facing, could help them through the difficult times in their lives. Our future plans for this project is to continue to add more chapters, each of which dealing with another mental or physical illness people around the world suffer from while trying to give support and help to both the victim and their friends and family.


Our March titled Late Panda is the memory-infinite runner hybrid we made to give our Late Panda mascot a face and game. This was our plan far back in University when we initially started Late Panda we wanted to make a project that included the Late Panda itself. In the future we may update this title however, the updates would be minor for this game as we were able to add all the features we wanted to this title during its initial development.


Finally our Gear VR horror title Trapped. We have a lot of plans for this title, from including more varied levels, to updating the gameplay to focus more on the narrative side. We would also like to release the title on more VR devices such as Oculus and HTC Vive however, this would be much later in the project's development as we want to finish the Gear VR version first and get feedback from the users giving us the opportunity to create an even better version for the other devices.

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I’ll leave She Whispers In Shadows plans out of this as the demo is not out yet and I don’t want to spoil the gameplay or narrative of the project.


We had a lot of fun during the 1GAM challenge and highly recommend that if you are an aspiring game developer that you get involved. It gives you the opportunity to see what you are capable of achieving over a short period of time and forces you to think outside the box in order to develop the title you would like to. If you are still a student and would like to move into game development I would suggest doing the challenge during your academic year. The projects that you make during the challenge may even be suitable for your classwork, and the challenge will keep you motivated to continue developing outside of your study time. By the end of your course you may end up with an extensive portfolio to showcase your abilities and you may even learn things from the challenge itself that you may not learn from any lecturer.

From the start of the 1GAM challenge our plan was always to extend our company portfolio. Each month we wanted to work on something that could showcase a particular talent but now we feel like we should focus more on the projects we have released and attempted to add a more quality experience to them. Like I said above, I highly recommend any developer gets involved in the challenge as there are many things someone can learn from something like this.

This is getting a little long for my likely but I’ve made all my points now so I’ll leave it off here.

You can follow us all over the internet

Thanks for reading,

Stephen.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Science Behind Doctor Who’s Extremis

Obviously, spoilers are ahead so here’s a red and emboldened warning!

I’m going to assume based on the title of this post that you’ve watched Season 10 Episode 6 of new Doctor Who titled Extremis. I will give a synopsis of the episode for those who haven’t but I will say this; If you have not watched Extremis then you should, right now, then and only then should you return here to possibly learn something of the science on display in the episode.

So, spoilers, the episode takes place inside a simulation created by some creepy-ass looking monks. The Simulants are unaware of this fact until it is revealed to them in an ancient book; Veritas. The name comes from Roman mythology, Veritas was the Roman goddess of truth according to Wikipedia. The book asks you to write down a random number of any size then turn the page where a number is revealed. If your number and the number in the book matches then you’ve failed the test, you’re a shadow.

Extremis is an interesting episode for 2 reasons, the first being the concept of living inside a simulation of the earth and the other being the fact that computers are actually really bad at producing truly random numbers.

Simulated Reality is a hypothesis that states that it is highly likely that we are in fact living inside a computer simulation. If this is the first you’ve heard of the hypothesis you might think that sounds mad but many academics, and generally smart people like Elon Musk, believe this could be likely. The idea is simple; significant technological advances could provide the ability for humans to simulate consciousness either comparable or equivalent to naturally occurring humans.

Humans could still be considered primitive when it comes to our technology, we’re still burning million-year-old dead animals and plants to generate electricity, and yet we have highly developed physics simulations we use for training purposes or just fun. Grand Theft Auto’s physics engine Euphoria uses artificial intelligence, biomechanics, and physics to simulate realistic human motions in real-time.



There’s also the Millennium Run created at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Germany. A computer simulation of our entire universe from the big bang up until now.



Yeah, science has already simulated the universe inside a computer. Granted it doesn’t have people in it that we know of, it’s still damn awesome!

Those who believe in the simulated reality hypothesis also believe that there might be signs we could detect to prove that we are living inside a simulation. Professor Martin Savage from the University of Washington, for example, believes that a possible limitation in ultra-high-energy cosmic rays could suggest we’re actually simulants.

In Extremis, they use the plot device that computers are bad with random number generation in order to figure out the cast are all shadow people. There is a little bit of reality to this as deep down, computers are just fancy calculators using arithmetic logic units (ALU) built into their central processing units (CPU) to perform logic comparisons (AND, NOT, OR) and basic arithmetic (add, subtract, divide, and multiply) to alter electrical signals (binary) 1s (on) and 0s (off).

It’s been awhile since I studied this stuff but here’s a simple representation that shows basically the Control Unit (CU) inside the CPU fetches a simple instruction for example, get the value at a certain memory address and add the value from a different address, It’s then passed to the ALU that performs the calculation and spits out the result where it can be stored in a new address.

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Hopefully, I haven’t lost you. What I’m trying to say is that computers, as we know them today, are simply big fancy calculators on the inside, so generating truly random numbers is rather impossible. Ever tried to generate a random number on your calculator? You can’t, you need to start with a chosen number, and because it’s a calculator, if you start with the same number and do the same equations you’ll get the same answers, every time. What they can do is generate numbers that give the appearance of randomness but are never actually truly random. They’re called pseudo-random numbers. This topic leads very nicely into a cautionary tale for security programming. I might write a post about that later on but for now, I’ll let you ponder.

Thanks for reading, you can follow us all over the internet.

Ellie xx

“You don’t have to be real to be the Doctor” - The Shadow Doctor?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

She Whispers In Shadows

Hey everyone,

It’s been awhile since I made a blog post, but I have been ill for a while now and only recently started getting better.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about our 1GAM (OneGameAMonth) project we started for May. Firstly due to my illness and being unable to get anything done and with Ellie busy with her own thing, we found ourselves with very little development time this month.

So, we decided we would focus on something smaller and easier to produce: a text based adventure game. With that general concept floating around we began brainstorming ideas for the storyline and mechanics of play. This is when we decided that not only would it be a text based adventure but we would create a “Choose your own adventure” type of story. This would allow us to keep the players engaged in the game itself, becoming a part of the story. We took inspiration from Ian Livingstone’s book series “Fighting Fantasy” where the reader would be taken through a tale making their own choices to ultimately win or fail. As a child I loved this series and would always go back to the book to find out how else the story could end.


We thought that this would be perfect for a mobile game. We immediately got to work on the mechanics of play at this point, deciding how the player would interact with the story and how much flexibility could be implemented into the game. We also created other features that the books would not be able to implement as well as a game could.

After the basic mechanics were decided we then moved onto the theme of the game story. We didn’t want to recreate the same experience that Fighting Fantasy produced, with the player taking control of a character in a fantasy land with goblins and creatures not of this world. Instead we focused on creating a film Noir type world, where the player will take control of a detective attempting to solve a mystery they have found themselves pulled into against their will. This would create a more realistic environment and allow us to focus more on the character and mystery of the story, rather than the world building and creature creation.


Writing a story like this is a very different experience for me. I thrive more in the fantasy realm of storytelling, where the entire universe is at my binding and allowing me to create anything I could imagine. Creating a narrative that is based in the real world restricts me to abiding by the real nature of our planet and all the creatures on it. However, I have enjoyed this challenge greatly I think it is always a great idea to get outside your comfort zone when it comes to writing, if you spend all your time writing in the same genre then eventually your writing may go stale. Stepping outside your comfort zone may allow you to produce a game or story that players could really enjoy, but it also helps you to learn different types of writing styles and methods which only expands your knowledge more.

We have titled this game "She Whispers In Shadows" and it will be coming to Android devices very soon.

Thank you for reading,

You can follow us all over the internet

Thanks for reading,

Stephen.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Testers for VR Game Wanted

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We have a call to action for you guys. We need testers for our VR game Trapped. To take part you’ll need to have a Gear VR and a Gear VR compatible smartphone from the list below:


  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+


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There are a few ways you can help us out. If you don’t have the hardware but know somebody who does then you can send them this link. You can sign up to our mailing list at latepanda.com/contact. We’ll add your contact to the official testing portal and you will receive updates from there, we promise not to sell your email or spam you. Oculus do ask us that we’ve obtained permission from all users that allow them to send communications to you on our behalf though so know by going this route you’ll be agreeing to these terms.


I agree that I have obtained consent from all individuals included in my user list in order for Oculus to send communications on my behalf. I authorize Oculus to send communications to these users and indicate the communications is from me. I agree to indemnify and hold Oculus harmless for any claims or damages arising from the failure to obtain the required consent from applicable users.


It seems a little strange to us but hey, it’s one of their terms that we’re agreeing to in order to test our game on their platform.


You can also download the .apk (Android Application Package) directly from www.latepanda.com/trapped. You will need to have developer mode activated on your device and allow “unknown sources” to install this version correctly. Going this route will mean that you won’t have automatic updates so you’d likely be testing an increasingly older version of the app unless you check back at the above URL periodically.


We ask all testers to send feedback through latepanda.com/contact so we may improve the game over time.


Thanks for reading, you can follow us all over the internet.


Ellie xx

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The absence

So, we didn’t post a blog last week, but why? We’ve actually not done much for Late Panda over the last 2 or so weeks. Stephen has been heavily ill and I’ve been trying to buying my first house. The issue with only having a few people in a company means that if those people are detained for any number of reasons then productivity goes down.

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Fear not my readers and faithful late panda watchers as Stephen is on the mend and I will have slightly more time to spare than I’ve had over the past few weeks.

Updates will be made soon about our VR game Trapped and keeping with the #1GAM theme we’ve decided to put together a quick Text Adventure game that I’m sure Stephen will talk about next week closer to its release as he’s writing the story.

Thanks for reading, you can follow us all over the internet.

Ellie xx

“There’s a tendency to mistake preparation for productivity. You can prepare all you want, but if you never roll the dice you’ll never be successful.” ~ Shia LaBeouf

Thursday, 4 May 2017

What we made from a nightmare

Hey everyone,

So today I wanted to do a brief “sequel” to my previous blog titled “Where does inspiration come from?” in this blog I wanted to talk about the inspiration behind our current VR project Trapped.

Trapped came from a nightmare I had before we started development, where I was stuck in a black room unable to see while being chased by some kind of force. I was only able to feel and hear my way throughout the room attempting to escape from the force. When I awoke my first thought was, “that would make a cool game” and after discussing the nightmare with Ellie we agreed to create this project.

After deciding this would be the project we develop, we planned out the design of the game, focusing on the sound assets and how the player would use them to navigate throughout the level. The idea of this game was to create something that would give the experience of a blind person attempting to navigate through several areas. Ellie then suggested that the project be a VR title as we have the tech to create a GearVR game and lack any titles in this field, which would make the experience more immersive for the players.


We have been developing a short demo version of this project as a proof of concept and give us the ability to test the game with the players getting feedback that we can then take into the full release version of the title. This demo will be available very soon on the GearVR device for free however, due to it being a concept demo there will be bugs, and unfinished details of the game.

After we have tested the concept demo with the players and gained any feedback we will be implementing the full version of the game. This will include a narrative experience, multiple levels and new gameplay mechanics we were unable to implement into this demo version. We will be releasing this finished version onto the GearVR and Android devices once completed however we will still not be finished with this project. Our final future plans for this game would be to release a full working version of the game onto Steam available for the Oculus Rift VR headset as well as including controller support that will make input easier and more intuitive.


We decided to make this project as part of the 1GAM as the general focus of the challenge was to create something each month that would expand our game catalog and create a more diverse platform of titles under our name. We hope that you enjoy Trapped in all it’s versions, keep an eye on our social media (all links below) to find out when each version is coming and any other future titles.  

That’s all I have for now.

You can follow us all over the internet

Thanks for reading,
Stephen.

“I make it a personal rule never to do anything that I don’t really care about. It is surprising how much this cuts out” - Richard Koch