This blog is a transcript of a talk I did for the (extremely cool and pretty groundbreaking) Power-Up Digital Games Conference, hosted by Zettabyte Marketing.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for sticking around so late! My name is David Vogt. I'm the founder and project lead at The Ludicrous Ones. I suppose you could say that I specialize in reimagining and breathing new life into classic game designs.
That philosophy brings us into tonight's talk. "Maximizing fun and playability across platforms" A lot of what we do is taking these older, yet viable designs, and making them work with today's technology; like various input devices, distribution methods, and the such.
This is Bug Attack!, and will be our example tonight. In fact, you can pop over and play the free web version right (now) after this. Try it in both PC and mobile browsers for a real hands-on example of this whole thing.
So, this is Bug Attack!. It's partially inspired by Missile Command, and partially inspired by the idea of ants making their way into your kitchen from seemingly everywhere, and the tense, desperate feeling that comes with! The object of the game is to directly click on them to kill the variety of bugs. At various point intervals you receive power-ups, such as powerful bombs and a repair kit to restore health. Very simple, and to the point.
However simple, can we bring it to players elsewhere, and will it hold up? Yes, but not everywhere.
An easy to play, pick-up and play game like Bug Attack! is exactly the sort of thing that works well with a mobile device. Easy decision! Doesn't mean that changes aren't needed.
The most immediate problem was the size of the bugs. They were simply too small for the screen area. They were hard to target, and hard to see. This led to the blue bugs being resized by a large margin; and while their size was increased, the black bugs' and dragonflies' were not. That was to keep the game from becoming too easy, bonuses too easy to hit; plus, the beetles just kind of took up the entire screen! It was a mess.
User Interface needed to be addressed, but luckily, it was pretty much a no-brainer. The Pause function and powerups are inobtrusive, and can be activated with a touch or click. The only real difference is giving PC (and console) users the option to disable the onscreen buttons, and use keys and buttons instead. A simple matter, but something you want to keep in mind. It's one thing to design things to your vision, but playability needs to be a factor in your decisions.
PLAYING THE GAME
Besides the above, there is one big difference between the big and small screen versions. In the original design, you click or touch, boom. You know what, though? A single touch at a time felt very restrictive, and not all that fun. It was clear that it had to play like a different game at that point. Multi-touch won out- but there were some goofy and fun tests with smashing them with a swipe or a smear. We may revisit some of those ideas for powerups for a later update, but as the primary method of play... no.
FREE AND PAID VERSIONS
We don't want to get too into marketing and distribution here, so I'll keep this brief. There are cases for both methods, and there will be different versions of Bug Attack! on mobile. The free version will simply be the basic single player game, with a few inobtrusive ads.
The paid version will have extras, including free post launch updates, as well as being ad-free.
The Android platform versions have a nice extra benefit, and that's Google Play integration. That means we were able to effortlessly (and without cost!) add achievements and system-wide leaderboards. A nice platform specific perk, the kind of thing to watch out for, if it's in your scope.
THE BIG SCREEN
Bug Attack! is a neat little game; one that I'm not afraid to admit gets played an awful lot outside of work. Still, we can do more for a full featured experience. How much, though? If you aren't familiar with feature creep, it's basically when you go nuts adding extraneous stuff that your game doesn't REALLY need, and sends your scope, time, and budget spiraling out of control.
I think I've kept feature creep well under control, while adding some fun and pretty worthwhile stuff.
To make it all feel a little more substantial, some of them are unlockables. Every point you score in a complete game gets you closer to unlocking the extras. Real world achievements, in a way.
What kinds of extras are we talking about? We'll start with the base PC version.
We have things like splat colors: Change the color of splats the dead bugs momentarily leave behind, a sound test, a mode with quite different gameplay, and some bizarre surprises.
The two most substantial would be the...
Arcade Bezel: This gives you an enclosed, CRT arcade monitor view, complete with bezel and a marquee. It's mostly a cosmetic extra, but very nice to have.
Two player mode: The biggest advantage, to me, of a big screen experience is the ability to have local multiplayer games. After MUCH experimentation and deliberation, I came up with this;
By plugging in a standard XBox style gamepad, you can access 2-player mode. Player one plays as they normally would; but player two takes control of a building-mounted turret. This turret fires powerful rounds which can be manually detonated; but only one at a time. This creates a fun, strategic approach. Definitely a different, worthwhile experience.
There are more bonus modes and the such to be announced and released post-launch as free updates, but we'll move on to the last major platform.
NINTENDO WII U
Being a home console with a touch screen & stylus, plus Wii Remotes with pointer functionality, it's a simple matter to bring over the base game. Still, there's a lot more that can be done.
The elephant in the room is multiplayer. This is still a work in progress, but you have a machine that can support five players, easily.
The console gives us a lot of freedom of play, and I want to pass that freedom on to the players at home. This is leading to something of a party mode, where players can take on different roles; the trick is balancing and changing the game itself enough to facilitate the variety, while not so much that it loses its sense of self.
How would you handle it? It's worth putting yourself into those shoes, and thinking about.
The other primary change is the inclusion of Miiverse, Nintendo's integrated social network. In Bug Attack's case, this is a matter of swapping the Twitter share feature with a Miiverse one. Simple, but very fun and engaging for users.
So, that basically sums up where you'll be playing Bug Attack! later this year, and how it's fun and different each way you play it. But why isn't it everywhere? Playstation and XBox are great platforms, with great ecosystems. I personally enjoy both, as well as past iterations. Fact of the matter, Bug Attack is not a good fit with their control methods. Shoehorning it onto their controller schemes simply isn't fun; so the decision was made.
This leads into the close of this talk. Each decision made for each platform, and how everything feels and plays; each decision is made with fun in mind.
At the end of the day, that's an important, if not the most important, core value of our job. Fun. If something isn't fun, or it could be more fun, we make it better. If it doesn't work, sometimes it is better to check your pride and profit at the door, and get rid of it.
I hope you've gained some insight and appreciation of what goes into bringing a game across platforms. I also hope that you had fun. Thank you for hanging out tonight.
I've included the URL to play the free version of Bug Attack!. Try it out on both your PC and mobile device if you can, to get a real grasp of some of these examples.
This is a transcript of the live talk for the Power-Up Digital Games Conference.
The message on our limited run merchandise is more than a slogan. It's a rallying cry.
I've been running a showcase event (join here and check out some great stuff!) on Facebook to accompany the sale period; and it's been fantastic so far. Here's a look at the first few days' worth, and a mere sample of what's to come.
Take to the decadent streets of Reiker City, and bring the fight to the three criminal gangs that dominate the urban landscape: the Mafia, the Survivalists, and the Church of the Final Exodus. Run surveillance operations to locate and assess the criminal threat, craft or purchase new equipment, hone your skills, and recruit other vigilantes to back you up in tense tactical battles.
Head over to our Arcade to play it right now in your browser!
This fun mini-game has you jumping, gliding and spinning your way through an endless sky of floating buildings, littered with turrets, pick-ups and score-sucking birds!
Play Brella's Run right now in your browser!
Guardians of Victoria
Guardians of Victoria is a running game with multiple twists, taking conventional running gameplay and creating something unique! Testing your reactions, planning, and timing in an action-packed multi-tasking race to the end without being caught by Jack the Ripper.
Play as the Guardians as they fight their way through the Steampunk city in the clouds, collecting items and defeating the allies of the ever-chasing destroyer- Jack the Ripper. You must stop him!
Here's our first set. It's got a beautiful design by comic artist Joe Martin (CGC Comics, www.joerocksart.com), and a strong message.
Because if you support indie games, you are a hero. You're not only supporting the artist, but the ideals of creativity, ingenuity, and expression. It doesn't get more heroic than that.
These American Apparel t-shirts (that means super high quality, folks!) and mugs will be available through 4/29/16, with all production and fulfillment done by those crazy cats at TeeChip.
Get your own, tell your friends, and support indie games today!
First, the live streams of The Bounty: Deluxe Edition's Endless Dungeon mode went beautifully!
Here's the archive vid of the Glitchcat stream, including live audio chat with yours truly! We had minimal technical problems, and everybody had a blast. We'll be doing a LOT more of this sort of thing in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for stream channels, dates, times, and what games.
Several character sprites from the original version of The Bounty needed a little sprucing up, so that was done- along with some other tweaks, like a room number display in Endless Dungeon. Besides that... working on minimizing the game's final file size to fit Endless Dungeon on Android, and setting up the environment, since it want to be difficult and not work right out with Intel XDK, which is what I'm using for Bug Attack!'s mobile ports.
Nothing terribly exciting, but essential stuff, y'know?
There's a cool thing going down over the next two weeks at itch.io called Low Rez Jam. This game jam is based around creating a game that takes place entirely in a game screen sized at 64x64 pixels. I'm teaming up with Kyle Murphy(Noble eSports), Dan Bisciglia (Swerdmurd), and several-time-collaboration amigo Aaron Hickman (Dya, Retro Obscura) to whip up something small, cool, and weird.
Whatever it is, it'll be done super quickly over the next couple of weeks, so look forward to the strange.
Some really rad, limited edition merch will be popping up over the course of the next week. Some game specific, some more generalized- but really badass. Stay tuned for the big reveals, and get that wallet ready. These are all small run limited edition things, so you don't want to miss out!
The Bounty: Deluxe Edition
Endless Dungeon Mode
You can catch live streams of the mode from The Bounty: Deluxe Edition today at...
3PM CDT/4PM EDT
6PM CDT/7PM EDT
9PM CDT/10PM EDT
I'll be with the legendary GlitchCat Mason Cramer with a live
audio chat! He'll be showcasing the game, and we'll talk about it, development,
rock n roll, Doom, hot sauce, and whatever else.
All of these streams will also be hosted at www.twitch.tv/ludicrousda3ve.
What kinds of scores will these brave adventurers get before their demise? Only one way to find out...
If you're a backer, you can expect a standalone copy of this mode as soon as it's ready. Even if you aren't, you can look forward to some live streams in the coming weeks. It's always different, and always a lot of fun, so I'm pretty jazzed!
As you may know, I've added many new pieces of equipment. In doing so and testing, things in some areas felt a little samey, and balance had to be adjusted.
So, here's some highlights of what I've changed to make your gear choices distinct, and fair.
Shields- +1 to +3 DEF boost, and a 5%-15% boost in evasion, per deflected attacks.
This makes your sword & shield set feel fundamentally stronger, but not as an all-out offense set.
Heavy Weapons- Added Halberds, which afford more defense and a lower AGI penalty than Hammers, at the cost of ATK power.
Heavy weapons also come with a 5% increase in critical hit rate; though that is subject to change to as high as 10%.
Twin Daggers/Arm Blades- ATK power nerfed by 2-5 points, otherwise unchanged. These have the highest average damage output, plus a minimal AGI penalty. However, as they are two weaker attacks, they are more subject to minimum defense threshold, and each attack is executed separately. For example; This means that you can land one hit, but miss the other, land one critical and one normal, etc.
The idea behind this new edition is to make it definitive; which meant painstakingly reevaluating everything, while not losing sight of the design philosophy. I think all of these changes and additions have made it the game it was always meant to be. Hopefully you enjoy it too.
I made time permit.
HOW IT WORKS
For starters, all of the assets, plus gear, monsters, stats, battles, etc- come straight from the main game. That made things a lot less daunting. This only really left design and execution.
Design-wise, it's just The Bounty simplified. You start with a full loadout of gear (multiple equipment sets worth) and items. The dungeon is then generated, room by room as you go. This early version has 41 room types, and approximately 25 encounter types to draw from, all varying based on how far you've progressed.
Treasure has been simplified to a pickup, and items that you can buy with points spawn in rooms as well- but no traditional chests.
Secret walls make an appearance, triggered by switches or clearing a room of monsters. Adding to that is an abundance of floor hazards to the mix and distancing it from the myriad of puzzles and riddles.
All of the differing or adjusted designs makes Endless Dungeon a considerably different experience from The Bounty: Deluxe Edition's Story Mode, while retaining the same core.
All of the differing or adjusted designs makes Endless Dungeon a considerably different experience from The Bounty: Deluxe Edition's Story Mode, while retaining the same core.
HEY, WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS?!
You'll notice with a quickness that Endless Dungeon is very dark. As dark as only a select several from the main game. This builds a degree of mood and tension. It all feels mysterious, unknown- and dangerous. As your health and supplies dwindle, you find yourself fighting the urge to sprint to the next exit, fearing what may or may not be lurking in the darkness.
I think it adds a constant emotional depth that replaces deeper technical gameplay mechanics. It gets pretty intense.
Anyhow, that'll do it for today! As of right now a build is being sent for QA- so with any luck, you'll be hearing about promo streams VERY soon. In addition, a standalone early version will be given out to all backers- so if you've preordered a copy, you'll have something cool to play in the near future! This build is around 3/4ths the length of the version of Endless Mode in the final game, so there'll be even more for everyone to look forward to.
Have a great weekend, and game on!
coming to The Bounty: Deluxe Edition, called Endless Mode!
It's extremely simple- in this streamlined mode, you start with a full loadout of equipment and items, and journey through an forever-changing, never-ending dungeon. The goal? Well, same as always, really- go as far and get the highest score that
How does this differ from the main story mode?
This is more arcade-like, pick up and play mode. There are few items, and they are placed at the beginning and/or ends of rooms, and can only be purchased by spending your hard-earned points. Treasure is represented as open chests of gold, which you pick up by merely touching. Puzzle solving and riddles take a back seat to more straight forward traps and gear management.
Going along with a simpler approach, is the dungeon layout. Instead of a linear design with branching random paths and treasure, the entire path is randomized.
You'll start in the first room- and beyond that, no two games will be the same.
I hope you look forward to it!
This mode WILL NOT be DLC or post-launch content. It will be present, day one.
Note that the release date is still in flux- this is a huge game for a main team of one, and I refuse to release it until it's 100% finished.
I'll be starting up some streams demonstrating the game and this new mode in the coming weeks, so stay tuned, and get ready by following on twitch @ www.twitch.tv/ludicrousda3ve.
(MASSIVE UPDATE, GET COMFORTABLE!)
the cool changes, without spoiling anything!
This demo consists of the first episode- so let's go over how that has changed in terms on content. There have been new levels added, with some sweet secrets and
what have you. There's more treasure and gear to be found. In fact, there have been 25 new pieces of equipment added to the game in the last week alone, though everything spans the whole game, of course. It's a generally meatier experience, and I can't wait for you to play it in a few days.
The only thing holding back this demo build's release is a couple of really odd bugs- these are concerning the dynamic lighting and in-game volume control. I believe I've (seemingly) traced it back to a Windows issue, but bear with me for the time being.
This adjustment in difficulty suits the much longer game well. The forest episode (2) has a secret temple for you to discover, as well as a different ending and boss; which leads to the new Episode 3. E3 is another change in pace and tone from the separate level format- it provides a refreshing kind of challenge before the oppressive vibe of the dungeons and crypts of the final(much bigger) episode.
That'll do it for now, huh? I'll be tightening this demo down and releasing it ASAP. The next dev blog will be a recap of Bug Attack!'s last month of development, before moving to a more succinct and regular dev blog for The Bounty: Deluxe Edition.
Thanks for your patience and support, as always. I hope you'll enjoy your trip through The Bounty in the near future.
Project Lead, Designer, Competitive Player, Musician, etc.