Ludum Dare 26 – a post-mortem

cubecatcher_ld48_1GAMLudum Dare, the world’s most prominent game jam, took place from Saturday 27th to Monday 29th of May. While the 48 hour compo runs the first 48 hours and only allows one person (who has to do everything himself) to work on a game, the jam, running the full 72 hours, allows teams to work together on an entry and it’s rules are far more relaxed, allowing foreign content (like music).

My last LD experience in December didn’t quite go as planned, but was still lots of fun. This time I had even less time than the meagre 48 hours given to compo participants. I had played Volleyball all Saturday and was too tired to even switch on my computer in the evening. Sunday morning I slept in, woke at 11 a.m., had breakfast and only then took a peek at the Ludum Dare theme: minimalism.

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2013 – the new year begins

Last year was a year of change and new beginnings for me, a(nother) year of learning and creating. I fully committed to becoming a game designer, created 5 new games and learned how much it really takes to be a creative game designer.

This year is the year I’m going to refine my knowledge and skills in the ‘real world’. I’m participating in onegameamonth, a
game develeoper challenge to make and publish one game each month. This is a big thing, because, no matter how small a game is, there’s always that last step of finishing and publishing that is higher than all the others. I’m also going to spend 3 to 6 months at a game development company doing a work experience (internship) and collect more practical experience. Finally, I will start my last semester of studies in October, doing one single finals project, which will be finished in February 2014. All of this will be extremely stressful and hard work but also a fascinating experience that, I hope, will make me a better game designer.

Ludum Dare 48 hour game making competition

Ludum Dare LogoIn order to escape the daily stress I choose to participate in Ludum Dare #25, the worlds largest Online Game Jam. This weekend #LD48 gives developers 48 hours to make a game.

The theme this time: “You are the villain”.

So far I’ve got

  1. a title: The villain’s dream
  2. an intro dialogue sequence
  3. a concept that probably won’t work the way I want at all
  4. a 90 day trial version of Unity3D 4 Pro which is looking amazing
  5. 36 hours time left

Sounds good? Check out the other contestants, some of theri work looks amazing!

You can follow my progress on the Ludum Dare website:

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/author/zerebruin/

 

P.S: Updated to WordPress 3.5, qTranslate is broken now, hence the single language post.

Illuminum Alpha 4 release

Illuminum lives! The alpha 4 release seemingly took forever but it’s here now! You can play Illuminumon your PC with your Xbox controller now. Mouse and keyboard still give better performancy, though.

What’s new:

  • The menu has been completely overhauled and can be navigated with the keyboard (use arrow keys and return) or the controller (press A to select).
  • The white cubes now vanish when you walk over them.
  • The brightness (gamma) can be set now. However, the calibration isn’t finished yet.
  • Some new particle effects have been added
  • You can select your difficulty from easy to hard in three steps. Difficulty level influences
  • lots of bugs fixed
  • some new bugs ;)

Known bugs:

  • You cannot select the name input field with your mouse. Use the keyboard to shift the focus onto the text field, change your name, then shift the focus back again.
  • The ingame help menu doesn’t work properly

Next up: Fixing the known bugs, then working on sound

Have fun! As always, I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Play Illuminum Alpha 4.

Seven Days to make a game

The 7DFPS challenge is nearing its end on Saturday evening. Over 150 Teams are working on a first person shooter right now, with only 7 days to finish it. Maren, Malte and I are participating as the official team of the GameLab Freiburg. We’re not expecting to win but the challenge of creating a more or less finished game within 7 days is intriguing. Since we only started on Monday  and since we also have normal university classes, the time pressure is even greater on us. What are we making? We’re working on a black and white western shooter. You’ll see how that turned out on Saturday. It will be published on 7dfps.org, the GameLab Freiburg website and of course here

To catch a bug with Mantis

In order to document and track the status of my game Illuminum online and to create a basis for finding and removing problems I wanted to use a bug tracking system.

The best web based bug tracking software that I know is Trac. It features subversion access and an integrated wiki and lots of other neat smaller features. Sadly Trac is programmed with Python and since most simple webspace packages, like the one this blog is hosted on, do not offer Python support I needed to switch to an alternative solution.

Mantis Bug Tracker is that alternative software. It is PHP based and thus runs on nearly any basic webspace. It’s really easy to install and there’s a mobile version, Mantis Touch, available.

Mantis offers the usual features for reporting an issue. It can be assigned to a user and is coloured depending on its status. As soon as a bug is fixed or a feature completed, it is entered into the changelog automatically. You can also create a roadmap by making future versions of your project and assigning features to them. Uploading documents is also a nice feature that allows documentation and major updates to be integrated into the system.

Managing several projects is possible but can be a bit confusing since all projects are shown on the mantis start page and can only be filtered via a small drop down menu at the side.

The system has performed well so far. I’m excited to see how well I’ll be working with Mantis and if there are are any major drawbacks. I’m looking forward to all bugs in my game  found and entered by others.

You can find the bug tracker for Illuminum here. To report issues you can log in with the user name guestreport and the password illuminum.

 

Kickstart a great game: République

République is an action adventure of the usual kind. The story:

“You receive a desperate phone call from Hope, a young woman trapped within a shadowy totalitarian state. Using a stolen phone, she calls and begs you to hack into the nation’s surveillance system, assume control, and help her escape from the clutches of the omnipresent Overseer.”

In République you don’t steer the main character directly but only tell her what to do and when to do it. Through hacked surveillance cameras you follow her movements, tell her when to move, fight, kill. Featuring elements of action, voyeurism, surveillance, stealth and hacking and a story heavily influenced by George Orwell’s 1984, this unique game concept shows lots of promise to become an indie hit.

The game is being developed by industry veterans behind AAA games like Metal Gear Solid, Halo, F.E.A.R., Kinect, and cutting edge videos like the Skyrim television spot and the iconic iPod “silhouette” ads.

One of the primary goals of the developers is to create a mobile action game with a heavy atmosphere and story specifically for touch-based devices. Besides iOS, there will also be a version specifically developed for PC and Mac.

Beyond digital gaming

Besides the digital game, there are also plans for real-world add-ons. A journal, replica of the item found in game will bring even more atmosphere to the gaming experience and the collector’s edition will feature another book, the Overseer’s Manifesto.

Help the game

Now, with only 7 days too go to the deadline, the game has only raised half the money needed to kick start it. So please, watch the proof of concept videos and interviews about the game, look at the great images and ideas and then help fund it.

République at Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been around for a while now and has helped fund lots of great games (e.g. Wasteland 2) and ideas (e.g. Elevation Dock). The principle is simple: a project presents itself and sets a funding goal and a deadline. Anyone can now pledge money to the project. This money is only if the project manages to reach its goal within the deadline. Otherwise the project simply dies. Usually there are rewards arranged in several tiers for the funders. For example you’ll get the iOS Edition of République if you pledge 10$. For 15$ you’ll get the game for PC & Mac. This is probably less than the game will cost on the market after release. Higher tiers give you in-game credits, and for the top tiers you will even get a game-character modeled after you.

République at Kickstarter

Illuminum

In the beginning there was nothing. Then came the light and with it came darkness. And the darkness saw the light and envied it. And thus from hate the eternal struggle between light and darkness was born.

Story

You are a Lighty. But who or what is a Lighty? Lighties are beings made out of light. Nobody knows where they came from but they’ve probably been here forever. Some say that the first Lighty gathered so much light that it had to leave the Earth and became the sun. Some say that all the stars are Lighties, watching over the planets and the beings on them. Humans almost never see Lighties and if they do they do not recognise them. Lighties live in a layer of the time-space continuum between realities. Time passes differently there. Light acts differently there. In between the stars, in the nothing that is space, in the dark nebulas where no light ever travels and most of all in darkspace abide the dark matter entities. They are the lighties’ sworn enemies, determined to destroy all light and anything that springs from it. Now, one of these entities has made it to Earth during a solar eclipse. It managed to prolong the eclipse and without intervention Earth will remain in darkness forever. It is your task to stop the impending destruction of all life on Earth.

Tutorial level:

At the beginning you don’t know what’s happened. Everything is dark. Find out what’s going on. Get accustomed to the changed surroundings (darkness, fog). Steer your Lighty with W,A,S,D, float over smaller obstacles by pressing space. You can increase or decrease your light radius by pressing E or Q in order to see better or to conserve energy. Blue light is your life-energy. You use it up all the time, faster when moving. You can recharge at artificial lights all around the map. Find these light cones before your light meter runs out or you will die. You can increase your light storage capacity by picking up blue cubes. You can only recharge your life-energy at blue or white light cones.

Play Illuminum Alpha 1

Why Unity rocks!

It’s high time I write some lines about the game engine Unity 3D. I’ve been working with Unity since October 2011 and have gotten to know its strengths, which by far outweigh the downsides. Here’s an introduction to what Unity is and why you should use it for game development.

HISTORY

Development on Unity began as early as 2001, in 2005 Unity 1 and in 2007 Unity 2 were released. 2008 brought export function to the Wii and iOS. The breakthrough came in 2009 with the first free version giving everybody access to the engine. Version 3 saw the rise of Unity to a trend in game development in 2010, right now there are over half a million developers working with Unity.

Advantages

What puts Unity apart from other game engines like the CryEngine or the UnrealEngine? For one thing it is incredibly beginner-friendly. The program interface is modern, clean and intuitive. Several introductory tutorials make it easy to get accustomed to the program and its abilities. Since Unity works with UnityScript, a close relative to JavaScript, programming access is also easy. At the same time professionals can use C# or Boo to develop their games.

A second great advantage is portability. Unity games can be published directly on almost all available gaming platforms. From Windows and MacOS to the gaming consoles PlayStation3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii down to mobile platforms iOS and Android and any web broweser via the Unity web Player and (since version 3.5) also Flash. Linux- and Google Native Client support are in the making. And that’s all direct export! No mucking about with long and costly porting. This extreme range opens the whole gaming market to developers.

Game development with Unity is fun, especially because the huge community is very helpful and thousands of code pieces are available when you’re stuck.

For independent game developers, costs ale low, with a pro license only costing $ 1500, including lifetime upgrades.

What can I do with Unity?

You can develop any kind of game with Unity, from 2D jump and run games to 3D ego-shooters. However, for the latter it is probably a better idea to us a specialized game engine like the CryEngine. There are a couple of ‘big’ games developed with Unity out there, but the mass of Unity games falls into the category of small and casual games. Probably because they’re mostly developed by single persons or small groups.

Unity doesn’t end with game development. Due to its enormous range of platforms, especially the Internet via Flash and the UnityPlayer, new possibilities arise that were hitherto only possible via 3D modules for Flash. Interactive 3D presentations and virtual shopping malls are just the start of what’s going to come.

Examples

An excellent game developed with Unity is Rochard, a space adventure by Recoil Games. To see what’s possible look at the results of the competition ‘Flash-in-a-Flash’.

A list of games developed with Unity can be found here: http://unity3d.com/gallery/made-with-unity/game-list

Free start to game development

Unity is available in a basic version for free. This version is perfect for learning game development. It can do almost everything that the Pro version can do, except for advanced effects like shadows.

What are you waiting for? Go download Unity and start developing!

 

Free Unity license for mobile devices

Until April 8th, the Unity3D-licenses for Android and iOS are free! The two free licenses, that normally cost 800$, are the basic versions that have the same features as the basic version for PC/Mac.

To get the free licenses you need to register yourself at the Unity store and buy both for 0$. Then you’ll get the License key which you can enter when starting Unity for the first time (e.g. after upgrading to 3.5) or in Unity itself under Help > Enter Serial Number. And then you’re all set to develop for mobile devices.

Before you all start developing games for your iPhone and iPod: remember, it’s Apple. Of course you can only develop for Apple devices on apple systems. So you’ll need MacOS to export from Unity to iOS because Apple’s development tool Xcode only runs on MacOS. People on the Unity Forum say that although it might be technically possible to have iOS publishing on Windows it would be pretty useless since it would lack important features for iOS system integration and you can only upload to the AppStore from Mac anyway.

You should get your free license key whether you plan on developing for iOS or not. You never know if you might need it in half a year. Did I mention it’s free?