Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The GMTK 2019 Game Jam

Hey everyone,

It's been a while since I've written a blog post, but since we took part in the GMTK Game Jam this year, I thought it would be a good time to publish what we did.

So the theme for this jam was "Only One" during Mark's video, that was published at midnight on Friday the 2nd of August 2019, he gave some basic ideas such as only one button or only one level.

However, we decided to focus on a narrative type game that fit the theme as most people would attempt to create something with "only one" mechanic.

We juggled ideas for a while, at first I wanted to create a post-apocalyptic game where there was only one character. The player would navigate through the world completing their quest, without having the chance to interact with any other characters. This game would focus on the loneliness of the character and how they cope with being the only person in the world since the apocalypse.

After some discussion, we decided not to pursue this game as it would have a similar theme to Fallout 76, and the story would need to be told through blocks of text which didn't engage the player in Fallout 76 and wouldn't engage them in this jam game. We worked on this theme of loneliness, however, and managed to create a narrative-based game where the player must help the main character work through his mental health to escape from his own mind.

We wanted to create something with RPG Maker MV, as this is something we have not worked with in the past. This game jam gave us the ability to test RPG Maker and test our abilities with this program. I worked on the scripting and the level design, working directly with RPG Maker while Ellie worked on the assets we required for the game. That said, we did have to use some assets from RPG Maker such as the character generator due to time restrictions but Ellie still made the vast majority of the assets and did a great job with them. 

We do have several issues with the game, but most of which were due to time restrictions for the game jam. We noticed after submission that many people did not know that during the second part of the game the player can leave the room to reset the items back to their starting state in case they trapped them against the wall while moving them. In hindsight, we could have made this much easier to show, for example making a small blue circle on the ground that would symbolise the reset. 

Our largest issue with the game was the battle, we wanted to have the battle in three stages which would increase in difficulty and complexity while also having the main character exchange dialogue with their negativity. The player would also have different abilities that would change based on what options they choose during the fight. Some of these options would make the battle much easier, some might make it harder. These ideas were scrapped during the last day of development and we needed to create a simple 1v1 battle against the negativity that incorporated some of the elements I have listed here. 

Based on the comments we received after the voting period ended we believe that we created a very compelling narrative title that most of the players seemed to enjoy.

The GMTK 2019 Game Jam was a very popular jam, we were very happy to contribute to this jam and happy that we were able to create something very special out of the weekend. There were many great projects created for this jam, and I would recommend checking them out

Although we may not have ranked very high, we do not consider this weekend a waste of time as ranking high was never the point of the jam for us. We just wanted to create something fun, and involve ourselves in this community, which by far was the best part of the entire jam. 

Until next time,

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Stop motion testing (TULP-BG Update)

We wanted to demonstrate that our little board game box actually contains a full size board game inside including over 250+ pieces. What started as a simple idea for a gif quickly turned into a much larger stop motion animation project.

Firstly, if we were going to do a stop motion animation we'd need a rough idea of what was going to happen and when so I drew up this crude storyboard sketch in MS paint of all things.

Now, this animation took a few days to complete and after a few test runs the animation had changed a bit since this sketch was drawn but is still served its purpose for the time it was needed.

We knew that we wanted the meeples to walk slower than the rest of the elements but we didn't know how much slower so we created a simple test to determine their speed and ended up going with a speed between the purple and white meeple.

We then created a simple test run to see where we'd place all the elements and at what point in the animation they would appear.

We quickly realised that we'd need a decent source of lighting in order to avoid some painfully obvious shadows. Initially we thought that being by the window would offer us bright natural lighting but we quickly changed out plans after noticing that the sun kept going behind clouds and sometimes would just take over the shot completely.

We had some halogen house lamps lying around so we attached them to the camera rig pointing down towards the stage. They fell a few times and we ended up replacing a couple of bulbs until the lamps were secured in place.

Next was the actual animation. We used a Samsung Note 9 with HD Camera Pro to take each photo. I prefer the options the premium camera app has over Samsung's default camera.

Lucky we could reduce the camera shake per photo quite a bit by using the Note 9's bluetooth stylus as a remote to snap photos. The stylus did need recharging a few times but overall it saved us quite a bit of time.

Stephen then took all the photos and added and edited them in HitFilm Express which is a free video editing software while I sourced the music and sound effects from ZapSplat which is a website that offers free sound effects & royalty free music.

The resulting video is a test unboxing animation that we'll be using to showcase the different components of the game. Once TULP-BG has art and maybe a name we're planning on recreating the animation again with better lighting and sounds as a promotional video for potential interested parties.

We're still currently playtesting the game with different numbers and different groups of people and so far the game is holding up pretty well from a gameplay standpoint.

We've heard your feedback and we'll be changing a few small gameplay things going forward including the addition of some basic artwork to help playtesters going forward visualise the game easier.

If you're in or around Glasgow, Scotland during May 2019 and you'd like to be a part of one of our playtesting groups then you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We'll be sharing future playtesting events soon.

Thanks for reading,
Ellie xx

Monday, 8 April 2019

The untitled Late Panda board game

Hi, Ellie here. I wanted to give you a little update on what we've been doing here at Late Panda.

A large portion of our time has been spent on contract work, working for other companies trading under our subsidiary Obscuremoon. We split Late Panda Limited in order to keep the contract work and the game development separate. You can check out a few of our work-for-hire projects over at www.obscuremoon.com if you're interested.

We've also been busy working on creating a board game. The game that is currently titled "The untitled Late Panda board game" or TULP-BG is a 2 - 6 player competitive team-based strategy game that takes 30 - 60 minutes to play. I don't really want to just throw a bunch of buzzwords at you so I'll try to explain.

You start by building your game board any way you like using all the available tiles. Players then break off into 2 teams. The main goal is to capture and convert the members of the other team onto your team until there is only your team left standing. If you're playing the 2 player version then you're both trying to capture the other person first. If you're playing with 3 players then the player by themselves gets some extra powers to help them out. Along the way, you may flip a tile containing a challenge. Players will need to face these in order to progress through the game and complete their own personal goals. Your team will sometimes be able to help you overcome these challenges but not always. There's more to it than what I've written here but above pretty much sums it up. Some people have likened TULP-BG to Dead of Winter and others have said it reminds them a bit of Betrayal at House on the Hill.
We spent a while researching and refining the mechanics and feel of the game. Since it's inception the board game has changed a lot. It was originally a race between all players to see who could capture as many pieces of the board before the end of the game but we playtested a few versions and found that it wasn't exactly what we were going for so we kept refining.

We currently have our latest version printed and cut albeit without the artwork. We've been busy testing with groups and collecting their feedback. The game consists of around 250 cards so we want to get the card mechanics perfect before starting the large art task as some cards will continue to change.

A print and play version of TULP-BG will likely be made available once we're confident that we're close to a release candidate of the game. We’ll keep you up to date here with any further developments.

Thanks for reading,
Ellie xx