Right, finally time to put into words what I’ve been working on for the last 6 months. The first of those words being “I AM PLAYR Mobile”. Yes, I have been developing the mobile instalment of the popular web game of the same name. Based on (but not a carbon copy) of the web game, I have been developing a companion app (available for iOS and Android) to complement the already well-established web game.
The game itself consists of 12 training drills, where players compete against friends, furiously outscoring each other by flicking a ball at various targets. The mechanics change dependant on which drill you choose. Some require fast reflexes, others astute timing, but all in all it’s a lot of fun.
For all your developers out there, a few morsels technical details. The game itself is was pretty straight forward to develop, with a few nice additions. I added back-end support (with help from Bill Robinson on the server side code) which means that data can be pulled and pushed between the web and mobile game. This was a vital piece of functionality (both technically and design wise) as we wanted players to be able to play the mobile game, whilst also be rewarded in the web game and visa-versa. Therefore, driving players to both games; a double pronged attack! Furthermore, been able to host our localisation and settings files (i.e. replacing text, changing thresholds and settings) on our own servers, enabling us to alter the game remotely, without having to recommit the app each time we wanted to make small changes (especially in response to analytics).
The game’s initial brief consisted of a graphics heavy landing map (the main menu of the game). The map itself couldn’t have been more enjoyable to implement. Thanks to the great graphics skills of George Allan, we had a beautiful set of assets. Additionally, it provided me the chance to indulge with my love of computer graphics, and heavily optimise the scene, in order for it to run smoothly on lower end devices, such as the iPhone 3GS and iPad 1. This was quite a tough task when you’re handling roughly 40k – 50k triangles, and around 35 – 40 draw calls. Obviously, the major bottleneck with mobile tends to be the fill rate, which was combatted throughout. Using texture atlases, static and dynamic batching and LOD really helped bring the frame rate to a smooth 60 frames per second. We added a nice camera sweep, which shows off all the assets, and really completes the scene. I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out.
A major part of this project, for me personally, was steering the technical direction, software architecture and code design of the project. Even though I have always been an advocate of good software design, providing other people with direction was a new experience to me; and one which I have throughly enjoyed. Continuously scoping the project and guiding it toward a goal, really makes any project you’re working on, a labour of love. Working with fellow Unity Developer Carlos Revelo to produce the game, was also great fun. Closely discussing ideas with the Senior Games Designer Dan Mayers, outlining briefs and getting to work with the implementation, is a process which I never get bored of. I guess it the analogy would be an engineer pouring himself into designing a bridge, building it and finally seeing it come to fruition. Except, at least for me, building games is a lot more fun than building bridges.
Hopefully (will have to clear it with the company first) I’ll be doing some in-depth technical posts, about anything technically interesting, tips and any problems I encountered and how I solved them. And as always, if you see something I could have done better, comment and let me know (I never stop learning, let’s be honest, it would be pretty boring if you knew everything).
Well hello there *waves*. Since my blog mainly dedicated to the technical side of Unity, I thought I’d ease up (it’s Summer after all) and talk about some games I’ve played recently. By no means do I want to ramble on paragraph, after paragraph, with a detailed critique, since let’s face it the people at IGN, RPS, (insert your favorite games review site here) can do a much better job, than I ever could. This post will be looking at games which I think have stood out for one reason or another in recent memory; be it a for single mechanic, artist style, or maybe I just thought it was barrels of fun. Right first up, let’s start not with a wimper, but a bang!
The Walking Dead by Telltale Games
I can hands down, sure fired, rooting-tooting, some other catchy phrase of words, say that I absolutely loved this game. People can debate over whether it’s a game or cinematic experience all day, all I know is that I loved it. In terms of a story telling experience it has be right up there, so much so *controversial point warning* I would say it eclipses games, such as L.A. Noire (which I also thought was great). I wouldn’t say it topped my personal favorite “Mafia” in terms cinematic experiences, but I was salivating at the screen throughout the twists and turns of the beautiful storyline. One mechanic, I thought was extra special, was providing the player with two choices, which were equally as horrifying as the other; reminiscent, of the “Would You Rather” game, i.e. “Would you rather be a billionaire, or Spider Man”. I’ll let you ponder on that one. Adding a countdown timer, to force your decision on said choice, also heightened the tension, so much so, that my co-workers would routinely hear me sigh, after each one. It’s a tough life, living in a zombie apocalypse… who would have thought. I can’t praise this game high enough, so if you haven’t played it, give it a go. This game pretty much moved me to tears during the closing scenes, and I can’t say that about many games (although I’ve heard Superman 64, does the trick every time).
Getting the game train to the other end of the tracks now, a game that I’ve been playing on the tube (that fits in nicely with my train analogy) is Slayin. The reason why this game is very much so on the other side of the tracks, is that it’s world purely revolves around a few long loved game mechanics. Think hack ‘n’ slash, life bars, armour and a non-existant story. As soon as I started playing it, my 8-year inner child rejoiced, as fond memories of a “Link to the Past” came rushing back. The game can be pretty much summed up, by imagining if Link got trapped in “The Perpetual Dungeon of Doom”, being besieged by wave after wave of enemies, with only: fast button bashing, limited coins for upgrades and many-a-boss battle to keep him entertained. At first I wasn’t a fan, but let me tell you it’s addictive. It’s just basic, uncomplicated fun. Like twister, or someone’s voice on helium.
Anyway, there you go short and sweet. Two games that I’ve played in the last couple of weeks, that stood out for me. Have a play, see what you think.
A game I had worked on at my previous company unit9, has finally been released. Entitled “Astro Shark HD”, it follows the story of a shark who’s love (a dog, in this case) has been kidnapped, and it’s your job to traverse the galaxy to go and save her. The game’s main mechanic works on a orbit pulley system, where you tap a planet, and your hook pulls you toward it. Release your finger and you’ll coast back into the colourful cosmos surrounding you. To spoil your coasting fun, rockets chase you on your merry way, trying their very best to blast you out of the sky (honestly, what’s their problem?!).
The game features a linear path of 11 levels, each with their own mechanics and increasing difficulty. The final level pits your wits against the fiendish dognapper, whom after giving a good beating to, allows you to be reunited with your beloved dog. The quirkiness of this game is definitely quicker than average, but to be honest, who doesn’t like a bit of quirkiness?! Plus, the art really makes it feel special.
The game was programmed in Unity (using C#) with fellow programmers Lau Fenes and Nick McVroom.
I’ve heard this question a few times among developers, and everyone seems to have a different answer. “Include the library files”, one developer would say, “Nonsense! Exclude them with these exceptions” another would say. But no-one seemed to be 100% sure, as to which files and why. So I made it my mission to go out and find out once and for all what actually needs to be a repository, for a Unity project to work (i.e. the essentials, no leftovers).
The good news for me is that I didn’t have to look too far. The first port of call, turned out to be the correct one. The trusty Unity docs, came to the rescue once again! The doc explains only the Assets and Project Settings folders need to be included to maintain your Unity project, nothing else. For a little more information and a step by step guide to setting up your repository for Unity see here.
So there you have it, a short and sweet answer, to a small problem. But as always, worth knowing!
Every so often, you’ll find yourself in a conversation with a fellow gamer, when the topic of favourite games will inadvertently raise its head. Whether you’ve been playing games all your life, or accidentally tripped over your first games console / PC a week ago, no doubt, you’ve got a mental favourites list to hand.
So why bother making a post about this? Good question. Well once you start discussing your favourite games, you’ll soon see that these games are special. Firstly, you’ve trawled your way through the jungle of games for years, and came out the other side with these gems (debatably, snigger). Secondly, these games, for better or worse, represent your taste and preferences. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the cue to break out the brandy, monocles, and mild-mannered snobbery, over which games are better than others. Nor is it the time to choose the most obscure art-driven game you can think of to impress the hipsters at the local bar. This is the time to reminisce over those games, that after you’d played, left a huge smile on your face.
Notice, I keep using the word “favourite”, which never ever means “best”. These are two very different things. Sure, I could compile a list of 10 games which I think are the best, which have pioneered the gaming industry. But that ladies and gentleman would be boring. What wouldn’t be boring (hopefully) would be to laugh, disagree and throw things at the screen, as I pick my top ten all time gaming favourites. In no particular order, here it goes.
I hope that was fun, and by all means, tell me your favourite games, in the comments below.