Developer Blog: The Infrequentness

I really should hire somebody to do all the non-game-making bits of this business for me as it seems I’m terrible at them. If you want the job you should be warned I can’t afford to pay you at all.

So here is a devblog post that is long overdue because I got distracted by basically everything on the way.

Studio Update:

I am still not homeless or starving! However the odds of me releasing a new game in 2013 are slim and as sales of Waves are no longer enough to support me through to 2014 I’m probably going to have to find an additional income source. I see there being two options that don’t take away from development time, Kickstarter and Steam Early Access. I’m investigating both of these at the moment.

The New Game is indeed a new instalment in the Waves universe. I say that instead of Sequel because the gameplay and focus of this new game is quite different. Where Waves was all about high scores the new game is all about exploration and co-operation. It will have an online co-op mode for 2 (maybe 3) players which is actually the focus of the game. I can say this with confidence now because online multiplayer is in and working and actually has been for about 6 months now.

My current task list has roughly 6 months of work in it just to reach beta and that’s not factoring in all the art and sound requirements for it. It’s a big complex game compared to waves and I really hope it pays off in the long run.

Currently Working On:

My current work is in creating the games “Ecosystem”.

Every level is procedurally generated and I wanted to find a way to populate them with entities in an organic way. This is an extension of an idea I had when I worked on the original Warhammer Online back before it went to Mythic. In that game the population of an area of forest would be determined by what was already there based on a dependence hierarchy. You wouldn’t get any Goblins until the Snotling population reached and you wouldn’t get Orcs until the Goblins reached etc etc. This meant that areas of the world that were constantly being farmed by players (such as those around the starting towns) would never spawn the really dangerous monsters but extremely remote areas would be more likely to build up.

It didn’t work in reality but that was because players would never leave the small monsters alone so that the nastier ones would spawn even if there was no benefit for them killing them. Players are a blood thirsty bunch.

This version takes entities that must exist in the world for the player to progress and uses them to create things that the player can fight. An example will help:

In order to move to the next level the player needs to get a complete key which is in several parts. They obtain a key part from an “input” node which is spawning entities that move “Data” from the input to the “Output” (Level exit). The entities that move the Data around sometimes drop some as they go.

Data if not picked up quickly will turn into “corruption” which can grown over time and turn into a “Bad Sector”. A Bad Sector will spawn enemies called “Errors” which are very similar to the enemies found in Waves. Some of these enemies will place traps, attack Data Carriers and generally increase the chances of more Bad Sectors forming.

There are several variations on this theme throughout the game that I hope will create interesting levels organically that I can’t fully predict. They are all designed so that in small levels where the player may encounter them very quickly the volume and size of enemy will be lower thus easier to deal with while in large levels the areas the player discovers later will have had a longer gestation period so have more bigger enemies to worry the player.

This is all fairly experimental at the moment and I’m still not sure if it will pan out how I hope but it’s something I really want to try out.

Rezzed:

I will be at Rezzed on the 22nd and 23rd of June. I won’t be exhibiting anything unless people ask if they can setup some Waves machines because they just had some space and machines going spare (which is unlikely) but if you want to meet up and have a chat just get in touch with me in Twitter, Facebook or Email.


New Year – New Game

Happy new year!

To celebrate why not throw a couple of quid at the just released Waves Soundtrack available here!

The soundtrack includes 4 of the 5 songs that makes up the music for Waves. Two of the tracks I’m not allowed to sell but they are freely available to download from these links: MICROCOSMIC, Disco Just Won’t Cut It This Time.

If you can help spread the news on your social network of choice then that would be awesomes.

2012 was a good year for Squid In A Box, while I didn’t release a new game I have made a lot of progress on “The New Game” and Waves sold it’s 40,000th copy. There was an IndieRoyale bundle and Waves went up for sale over at Desura all of which has meant that I am not currently homeless or starving.

2013 will be an even better year as it is the year in which I plan to release “The New Game” however that will be much closer to the end of the year than the beginning as there is still lots of work to do. There may be a Kickstarter required to finish “The New Game” as it involves much more art than Waves did and as such I will need to pay an artist and probably a composer in order to do everything justice.

Keep an eye out for a blog post about “The New Game” in the next week as I’m going to shift to a more open development process now that I’ve got most of the really boring stuff done (like replication, save games and UI) and can switch over to the more interesting bits (like guns, baddies, puzzles and explosions).


Untitled Game

Blue Fire Dawn is on the backburner because making human shaped art is bloody expensive and I can’t afford it.

Fortunately all the work that went into BFD has not gone to waste and it has formed the basis for my new currently Untitled Game (OK it has a title but it’s awful and I don’t want to use it).

Untitled Game is another top-down shmup using a similar art style to Waves (because money) but with a totally different focus. While Waves is all about high scores this game is all about Power Ups and exploration.

It’s a blend of top-down shooting and tweaking your loadout played out in procedurally generated levels.

Currently the game is what I call Pre-Alpha as I’m still building all of the various systems needed to be able to populate the game with stuff but it is playable.

Here is a montage of the 4 types of weapon currently available:

From top left to bottom right: Beam Laser, Shotgun, Flamethrower, Rocket Launcher.

These are just test weapons that I made to test the weapon framework. It’s quite robust and flexible now allowing me to do a lot of different things and chain effects together.

As an example:

A Weapon can fire a random number of exploding projectiles in an arc between 0 and 360 degrees. An exploding projectile can create any number of new actors when it hits something including more exploding projectiles, enemies, explosions etc.

Any source of damage (bullets, explosions etc) can apply status effects to their target that can buff or debuff the target (setting it on fire with the flamethrower for example). These effects can be refreshed by applying them again and can even do things like periodically explode, spawn enemies etc.

So I could create a weapon that fires a projectile that does no direct damage but causes any enemy it hits to explode after a short countdown which damages nearby enemies and covers them in a goo that slows them down and slowly eats away at their health.

I’ve already done a weapon whose bullets create 8 new copies of themselves when they hit something. It crashed the game in just a few seconds.

One problem that I’ve got now is the system is so flexible that while I could create almost anything I am overwhelmed by the potential. I don’t know where to start!

If you have any ideas for weapon types then I’d love to hear them in the comments.


Waves – Ambient Mode

This is something silly I put together quickly which I initially called “Pretentious mode” because of all the “Art” games that think having a substandard shooter is OK if all your sound effects are musical (It’s not. Do some work and make a good shooter as well).

It’s an audio setting not a new game mode where all the existing game sounds get replaced by a musical instrument playing a random note in the pentatonic scale. Depending on the length of the original sound it either plays a Glockenspiel, a piano or an ambient Lustmord-like drone.

It really highlights the 64 voice limit in Unreal which you can hit just by firing the gun at the arena wall so you should be getting about twice as many sounds playing when you get a big explosion but sadly the engine it says no.

Once I remember how to do Steam updates (it being over 7 months since the last one) I’ll probably throw this up as a free update for Waves which you’ll be able to access in the audio settings.



Shaders Are Awesome

If you read this blog regularly then you should know that my next game will involve procedurally generated levels.

Well I’ve been working on that a fair bit recently with a specific focus on finding easy ways to add variation to the level art without adding to the generation algorithm.

This means I’ve spent the last week messing about with shaders. Hurrah!

Shaders are awesome because they are really good at procedural content – adding things like dirt, blood, damage etc over the entire level can be done in the shader without it accentuating the square tiles or seeing a repeat in the textures.

It also generates some pretty awesome wallpapers.

Here is a basic floor shader (Click for bigger):

Now here is that same shader but with some procedurally generated dirt:

Some areas of the dungeon are dirtier than others. This is the dirtiest spot I could find but in other areas you just get some scuffing or the cracks between the tiles have just a small amount of dirt accumulated.

So there we go. Shaders are awesome.

 


Because We May (So I did)

You may have heard of Because We May by now but if not I shall explain what’s going on…

For the last week of May a whole bunch of independent game devs are celebrating the fact that we can do whatever the hell we want when it comes to pricing our games rather than having retail partners or big portals forcing us to charge certain prices and potentially screwing us over as a result. This means there are a whole bunch of awesome games on sale at reduced (and in a few case inflated) prices just because.

tl;dr Waves is 70% off when bought direct from here: link

Now because I’m super nice (and because I’ve got permission now) the iconic track from Waves (y’know the one in all the trailers) is now available to download for free.

Disco Just Won’t Cut it This Time by SMILETRON

That is all. Now I’m off to play outside in the sun. Or more likely sit inside grumbling about how hot it is.

 


Waves: The Postmorteming

On Monday Waves sold it’s 15,000th copy during it’s Daily Deal on Steam. That’s not bad for a game that’s been out a little under 6 months and was made mostly by just one man.

So with 20k copies looking very far away indeed right now it seems like a good time for a look back at Waves to see what went right and what went wrong.

First up some statistics without any context:

  • Units sold to date: 15,238
  • Percentage sold direct: 3.7%
  • Percentage sold on Steam: 96.2%
  • Percentage sold in Steam bundles: 53%
  • Percentage sold during Daily Deal: 15%
  • Metacritic Score: 82
  • Steam Demo Downloads: 25,985
  • Steam Demo Conversion Rate: 6.8%
  • Average Time Played: 2 Hours 44 Minutes
  • Average Play Session: 22 Minutes
  • Percentage of Players who played more than 20 hours: 1%
  • Percentage of Players who reached the Score Cap: 0.4%

If you are a website looking for a story feel free to pick a headline out of those numbers although by now I don’t think there is anything that surprising about them as we all know that Steam is a pretty big deal these days.

As you can see the majority of sales have not been at the full asking price of $10. In fact the average price paid per unit is significantly south of that and I’m yet to reach the point where I have to pay Epic any royalties for my UDK license. In short I’m not rich but I’m not starving (I am however still living with my parents which helps even though it is embarrassing as a 30 year old man). Now on the assumption that the inevitable Summer and Winter Sales for this year bring in about half as much as the first Winter sale did I should be able to fund myself for the next year. Those same numbers however say that I won’t be able to afford to pay for lots of art or other content for my next game which sucks.

Why Am I not Rich?

Everybody knows all indie developers that make it onto Steam are minted and have no money problems so why am I not sitting at a gold plated desk smoking money cigars while wearing a money hat (aside from my not smoking and looking daft in hats). Read on to find out why…

Continue reading


On Rolling Dice

I’m implementing skill checks in BFD right now and got to wondering about dice probabilities. One of the things I wanted to try and avoid is using pure probability values in the belief that by using a dice based system people will have an easier time visualising what’s going on behind the scenes and can discuss it better. I also want to attract fans of tabletop gaming.

I have experience mostly with DnD and Games Workshops games and to be honest I always felt that both of them are lacking in opposite areas.

DnD (4e specifically) is as you hopefully know a D20 based game where your normal skill check is to roll a D20, add your modifiers to it and see if you beat the  target skill. This results in some very large numbers being thrown around which can get a little confusing and having double the skill not always meaning you’re twice as likely to succeed.

GW games on the other hand prefer stats that only tend to range between 0 and 10 with 3′s being considered “average”. Most skill checks with their systems depend on looking up the two stats involved and finding a target value for a D6 roll. Normally if the two stats are equal then this would be a 4+ (50%) if your is 1 more than your opponents it’s a 3+ (66%) and if it’s more than double it’s a 2+ (83%).

I like the small stats of GW games but not the probability distribution. If I have double the weapon skill of my opponent I should be twice as likely to hit them (75%)  and if I have triple their skill I should be twice as likely again (88%).

These values only come up when dealing with re-rolls though. A 4+ on one D6 with a Re-roll is a 75% chance of success (and with 2 re-rolls it’s 88%). So I could say that having double the skill of the target lets you reroll a failure and triple lets you reroll two failures. This sounds great but it makes having a slight 1 or 2 point advantage useless.

So I ask the tabletop playing public who have no doubt done the maths on this already: Is there a dice system that would give me the distribution I crave with the granularity needed?