Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lightning Runners

Todd and I had a blast working on Heartbeat - Lightning Runners; check it out! Developed in collaboration with Digital Eskimo for the University of Western Sydney, this puzzle-platformer is aimed at addressing health and culture with aboriginal children in Sydney, Australia.

AAAAaaaah! It's a Dooligah!!!
We designed unique puzzles for each level, so progress involves avoiding baddies as well as solving problems related to health.

Kuti wonders, "What could be wrong? And why is sewage pouring into the wetland?"
Also, unlike any game we've made up to this point, this one has a ferocious end-game boss!
If you think this is ugly, wait until he starts spitting phlegm.
Hope you enjoy the game, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cat in the Hat: Invention Engine



We released a new game today! It's a little game called Cat in the Hat: Invention Engine. The game is all about building Rube Goldberg-esque machines to help Cat prepare for Fish's birthday party. If you've played The Incredible Machine or Amazing Alex, then you have some idea of what you're getting into.

An example of the free play mode.
The game has 25 levels that we designed and a free play mode that allows you to make your own puzzles. You can unlock more than 20 objects to play with in free mode. So, there's plenty of toys to play with.

We worked with the wonderful folks at Random House Kids and PBS KIDS to put this game together, and we're really happy how it turned out, so check it out! 

Monday, May 04, 2015

We Met Some Future Game Designers

We had the opportunity this past Monday to present at the Maiden Middle School Video Game Club. It was a ton of fun, and they were a great audience! We started with a really informative presentation, sharing a bit about ourselves, what we do, and how we do it.
VERY informative... ...leave it to game developers to turn it into a game...
After our presentation and Q&A (where they stumped us with hard questions), we had the club participate in game design with our latest alpha. We gave them about 10 minutes to play it, and then we talked about what they thought, what worked well, and what could be improved. They had some fantastic and insightful feedback that should make the game better as we continue to develop it.

Oh, and we always enjoyed these while in school, so we threw in a pop quiz... ...let us know how you do!  (Sorry, we probably won't hire you.)


Friday, May 01, 2015

Dev Log #4: Cannonball Z

If you played through the alpha then you probably already saw the cannon, but I figure I'd ramble about it anyway since it's a fun object.

The cannon idea came from wanting a new moving object to manipulate with our transforms. Cannons seemed like a good idea because cannonballs have a simple movement pattern (in a straight line until they hit something) that is predictable when transformed.

So, we can do things like this.

(Yes, the smoke trail is buggy, grr!)

The cannons themselves can also be transformed so that we can shoot in different directions.


We've made it so the cannonballs interact with other objects. They can be used to knock down walls.


They can press triggers.


And they can interact with the sheep. Though the sheep doesn't seem to enjoy it. :'(


Since cannons can hit triggers, they can even shoot other cannons. :)


Right now all the cannons are trigger-based, but we thought about having a version that auto-fires so that every puzzle that has a cannon doesn't require a sub-puzzle revolving around pressing the trigger.

Once again, we still have some things we're debating about with regard to the cannons. The main question being whether they should be cannons at all. Since the game is supposed to be in a magical forest (which is not well established by our current art) cannons don't make a lot of sense, but, everyone understands how cannons work, so it's easy to use that as a crutch. The question is, can we find something to replace them that fits in the world thematically while still being easy to grok. It's easy to think of a Mario Piranha plant-like cannon, but that feels like we're stretching, but grasping the next most generic thing. If you have any ideas on what we could replace our cannons with, we're open to ideas.

Hmm...maybe I went a little heavy on the cannon gifs...

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Shifty, Twisty Forest: Alpha Build

Originally we lost our turtle, but now we're losing our sheep...
We're excited to announce the alpha build of The Shifty, Twisty Forest! This build improves upon our initial prototype with the following improvements:
  1. Panels now transition on a tap or click, providing much better visual feedback as the level is changed.
  2. We also updated the appearance of movable panels, highlighting them with a dashed line instead of a different background color. This helps to separate the panels from the rest of the level art and make them appear more interactive.
  3. The hero is now a lost sheep instead of a lost turtle. We noticed that turtles always seem to know where they're going, so having a game about a lost turtle seemed too far-fetched.
  4. Rather than shifting a panel into empty space, panels are now swapped with one another. This fixes some of our collision issues with the prototype wherein a turtle falling through empty space would collide incorrectly with an incoming panel's collision areas.
  5. The hero pauses at the opening of a level so the player is able to take in the scene and make decisions without having to catch up with a mindless careening sheep. The hero looks mildly excited about starting though, so don't keep him waiting too long..
  6. We made the level elements a bit larger. This should make the game easier to play and see on smaller mobile devices.
  7. Bouncy springs are still in, but we also added spikes, switches, and blocks to make things a little more interesting.
  8. We removed most of the affine transformations for this build, but they'll be in the beta. We're thinking that the initial 20 levels or so will focus on shifting and then we'll introduce reflections and rotations thereafter.

Start each level by tapping the sheep, and once he's in motion, tap the movable panels to get the key and make it to the exit. Check out the progress and let us know what you think!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dev Log #3: A Time to Break Down, and a Time to Build Up!

After working on the self-destroying wall, I thought a natural follow-up would be a growing wall. Again, I'm stealing liberally from Kirby here.

This is really the same idea, just in reverse. We start out with all the wall blocks placed, but only the starting block is visible/collideable. When the wall is triggered, it creates a hitbox that triggers all the adjacent blocks in cardinal directions. These again have a fuse timer so that there is a cascading effect.


One unique trait to growing blocks is that they can cut each other off. So, if two sets of growing blocks cross the same part of the level, the order in which they are grown will determine their final shape. We hope this will force players to think a little more about the order they trigger switches.

Hit the switches this way one way and you get this result.

Swap them and you get this result.

A couple unresolved issues with growing blocks are collision and visualization.

Since we are introducing collision on the fly there is always the potential of something being inside the collision when it is created. We currently don't have a clean way to handle this. Destroying the colliding object wouldn't make sense since we're making a puzzle game and won't have extraneous pieces that should be removed. Shifting the overlapping object out of the collision is a better idea, but that tends to look a little junky and in general we'd prefer to avoid that situation. Our current solution is simply to avoid placing objects such that they can get caught inside collision. We'll see how long it is before we break that rule. :)

As far as visualization, right now the 'soon to be grown' blocks are hidden. I'm not sure if that's a good idea or not since the player will have to guess and check to see how things grow which may be fun or may be annoying. We could always show semi-transparent blocks instead of hiding them completely or have the backgrounds inform the player of where the blocks will grow.

Anyway, those are our thoughts at this point, if you have any suggestions on how to handle the collision or a good way to visualize the growing blocks, we'd love to hear them.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DevLog #2: Boom!

We've got most of the basic shifting/flipping/twisting functionality working, so we've started shifting to level design and obstacle creation.

One obstacle we've been working on is a simple switch-gate mechanic. Rather than go for a typical gate, we decided to steal liberally from Kirby and have switches that destroy clusters of blocks.

It looks like this!
The big benefit of this is that rather than having a fixed size/shape of gate, we can create whatever shape we want out of a series of blocks.

Even crazy stuff like this!
The mechanics behind it are straightforward. We have one or more start blocks, which are linked to the switch. When the switch fires the start block explodes and a circular hitbox overlaps the adjacent blocks in the cardinal directions. These blocks have a fuse timer, which when exhausted causes them to explode and trigger their adjacent blocks.

You end up with an attractive cascading effect (which will look nicer when we have real animations and not my ugly ones!) and a flexible system that can be used to create destroyable terrain of all sorts of shapes.