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.


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…

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Bombing Run

Bombing Run is mostly finished.

In this mode you have no weapons and the only way to kill anything is by picking up explosives from the Red Gate and delivering them to the Nuke Gate.

It’s not simple though. The explosives are on a ten second timer and if you don’t get them into the gate on time then they’re going to explode taking you with them.

You can gain an advantage though – get a X10 Combo and you’ll receive a shield which will knock nearby enemies away if you get hit. If you want you can even trigger it early with the bomb button. It comes in very hand if you need to dive headfirst into the mass of enemies to get to the gate.

This is probably the hardest mode so far in Waves. If you notice the scores at the end of the video this was the first run I scored over 1 million in. It is incredibly harsh and made me focus very closely on the collision detection code and I spent hours tuning the players movement speed and acceleration as a result.

Even though this is the hardest mode in the game to get really high scores at I’ve found myself to be completely addicted to it. I’ve lost hours when I was testing something because I compulsively hit the “Play Again” button at the end of each round. I’m hoping this is a good sign.

There are some other graphical changes in this version – most obviously the trails behind enemies and the new explosions. All of these are in the other modes and the game is even running faster now than it was when I made the Time Attack video.

Things are moving along very quickly and should be ready for a release in the autumn.

5 Hours of Particle Effects

I’ve been working on The Cube (remember him? He’d clump about the arena not really doing much but being kinda cool).

Well The Cube has gotten a little smaller and had a facelift. He’s also learnt a new trick – Stay still too long and he might just charge straight at you. All that tumbling around? That’s just so he can line you up for a smashing.

Anyway 5 hours ago that attack looked like this:

I promise you he’s moving at a fair lick in that screenshot.

Read on to find out how it went on for 5 hours.

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The Cutting Room Floor

All ideas are not created equal. If you follow me on Twitter you will be privy to the more detailed aspects of Waves development and will have seen lots of screenshots of stuff that is in development and in some cases been cut from the game.

I thought I’d share some of them with everybody else along with why they might have ended up on the cutting room floor. This is a bit like the Deleted Scenes part of a DVD.

If you want up to the minute updates on what I’m working on then you should really follow me on Twitter.

The Sniper

Owly Images

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Not yet. But nearly.

So I pretty much figured 1000 followers by the 6th wasn’t going to happen. However I was amazed by the number of followers I did in fact gain and mostly the amount of coverage and positive comments that appeared around the net as a result.

The demo will be released.

Just not today.

The problem is that the IndieDB competition pretty much came out of left field and left me nowhere near enough time to turn Waves into a viable public demo (mostly due to the additional UI work required). I was able to scrape the game together into something I could send to the judges but I wouldn’t feel right releasing the game in it’s current state as a demo for the public (The most important judges of all).

My current problem is that my Flash trial has run out and this being my first indie game I don’t have enough cash on hand to pay for a license. Not that paying for a license would magically make me a good UI designer or capable of achieving anything better than “Functional” in appearance.

I’m hoping to improve the UI in the next week or so but the demo may have to wait until after Christmas depending on how things pan out.

There is also the fact that when I was writing the “How To Play” for the judges I even started to confuse myself so I need to do something about that as well.

Extra special thanks go out to the 50 or so people who followed me on Twitter and to everybody who joined the Facebook page and subscribed on Youtube.

Anyway here are some screenshots of various bits for you to entertain yourself with.

Waves Demo. Maybe. Possibly.

So Waves is being made using UDK and it turns out that Epic are doing a promotional thing with IndieDB specifically for UDK games.

Now if you aren’t up to date with the UDK indie scene I’ll go over it for you. It’s got more in common with a modding community than a games development one. That is to say that more weapon renders get released to the public than evidence of actual gameplay so I’m in with a shot for this competition.

Now the problem is this: It requires that entrants release a public demo. They’ll accept private demos for the judging phase but if you win you have to release a public demo. This sucks as it would force me to release a demo of a game that I know isn’t finished and not in a state I consider ready for public consumption*.

So here is what we’re going to do. If you really want to play a buggy, unfinished unbalanced and 100% Work-in-Progress game that hasn’t even reached what I consider to be alpha yet then you need to let me know.

The best way is to follow @squidinabox on twitter.

If I hit 1000 followers by Monday the 6th then I will release a public demo of Waves that shows off essentially the first 3 minutes of the game in score attack mode. That’s basically up to the big cube boss. Defeat him and the round will end.

Essentially this:

In the final game Score Attack would just keep going until you run out of lives and there are going to be Time Attack, Practice and Challenge (aka levels, about 20 of them at least) modes in the full game with more enemies and some new mechanics.

If I don’t hit 1000 followers by Monday… well maybe. If you’re good.

* Yes I know it looks finished but believe me it isn’t.