Hi, I'm Blake. My first game was '89 Doors', a rage game where you escape mazes whilst being pursued by an insatiable creature of hunger, and now I'm working on a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchman', where you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchman and sabotaging a building in an effort to stop a one man army action hero.
I am learning the hard way that tower defence Level Design is difficult!
Even if all these elements come together, that does not necessarily mean that a level will be fun and engaging. With so many things to consider, designing great gameplay can sometimes feel like an impossible task.
That is why I was so fascinated by a quote I read this week by the creator of Braid: Jonathan Blow
So why was gameplay design such a zen process for him, and why is it such a difficult process for me? I decided to do some research and to figure out how his design principles differ from mine.
After watching an interview with him, I noticed he said “You don’t necessarily need to always have difficulty ramping up”
To many people, there is no distinction between those terms, but not to Blow. He says that “the answer [should be] right there if you know the right way to look at the world”. What I've learned from this is that I should make level progression a result of to the mastery of skills, not due to the memorisation of sequences or by trial and error.
He therefore takes out anything from a level that doesn’t focus on that level’s specific idea. It made me think of my game, and how it often feels very messy and haphazard. Often, even I don’t know what exactly a level is supposed to test – how can I expect that level to deliver meaningful epiphanies?
That is why I am going to start my level design once again from the beginning, following some of the design philosophy of Jonathan Blow. I think my game will be better because of this.
Wish me luck guys!
PS - a great introduction to Jonathan Blow's design philosophy was given to me by a video by Game Maker's Toolkit. I highly recommend it.
PSS - there are many youtube interviews with Jonathan Blow. Here is one, but there are many others. All of them are golden.
Hi, I'm McDeezy. I am currently working on a game called FMMH - a tower defence game that satirises action movie tropes.
Months ago, I read a great article by Blackshell Media called ’10 Simple Mistakes Indie Developers Should Avoid’. I suggest reading it, and you can find the original article by clicking here. I recently decided to revisit this article in order to get an idea of what mistakes I am still making, and how I can respond to them. I have written about the relevant ones.
Why I haven't already started asking for help is because I want to be able to give people a clear idea of what this game is about beforehand. I also think people will be more likely to help/team up with me if I have shown that I am serious about taking this project through to completion, and the more work I can do on the project myself, the more clearly I can demonstrate this.
I still think this is a good idea, so I will continue with my current course of action.
Mistake 9: Keeping your project a secret – I have kept my project a secret so far. The reason is because I want to make sure that I can provide an example of what this game is about - and be able showcase some of its mechanics - before I start explaining it.
According to what most developers say - this is a mistake. From what I have been reading, most developers recommend showing off something as soon as possible, some even recommend advertising your project even before you have something to show! Maybe I am being stubborn, but I don't want to show off my project until I feel I can give people a good/clear demonstration of what it is about by sharing gameplay footage. Since I am still committed to doing this (even though it may be a foolish idea), all I can try to do is work towards having a gameplay trailer as fast as possible.
To finish, it was good to revisit this article - not only did it make me realise areas where I can improve, it also made me realise how far I've come. What a journey. Well, gotta keep on moving!
Have a great week everybody
In this blog entry, I want to write about some of the changes I will be making to my upcoming game. *my upcoming game is called FMMH – it will be a tower defence game that satirizes common action movie tropes.
First major change: getting rid of the ‘dominant strategy’ - If you read last week’s blog entry, you'll know that one of the things I noticed about my game was that the dominant strategy was always to make as many income producing units as possible in order to create as many units as possible. If there is one strategy that always works, a game becomes both easy and boring.
Instead, what I am going to do now is give each unit particular strengths/vulnerabilities, meaning that each unit will have a particular scenario/situation that it works best in. I am also going to limit the number of units that can be on the map. This will mean that the player will also have to really consider what units are best to build - in what place and in what quantity - at a particular point in time, given monetary constraints. Having to consider all these factors will make the game a lot more challenging, engaging, and interesting - boom!
Second major change: how you choose units – I was previously going to have a system like ‘Plants Vs Zombies 2’ in which you have a character selection screen.
I may have not explained that well…the point is that I am going to try creating and implementing a system that I haven’t seen used in tower defence before. I think if this system works, it could really revolutionise the strategic elements of my game, and indeed, introduce a new way of thinking about character/tower selection in tower defence – Go big or go home right? Wish me luck.
Third major change: give my game more ‘juice’ - I recently watched this video created by Game Maker’s Toolkit:
It made me realize that there were many ways that I could add more ‘oomph’ to my game.
I am trying to parody the idea of the invincible, cold hearted, hypermasculine action hero who solves all problems through violence, killing hundreds of faceless, worthless ‘bad guys’ in the process. I think making this game over the top (like Broforce did) will be help to stress this core message.
K, those are some of the major changes. It will take a lot of time/effort to implement them all, so I better get back to work
Have a great week guys
What a week! There was some good, some bad, and some ugly, so I wanted to write about all three.
I hit a major milestone this week – I finished a rough draft version of all the levels that are going to be in my upcoming game called FMMH – a tower defence game that satirises typical action movie tropes.
Because I hit this milestone, I decided to dedicate my entire yesterday to leisure. I went for the brunchiest of brunches in the morning, I had my first ever massage in the afternoon, and then I watched Deadpool in the evening.
Ahhhh :) I need more days like that in my life
After finishing all the levels and playing through some of them, I realized that when it comes to my game: something is missing. Even though some aspects of the game are fantastic, it is not currently delivering the experience that I want it to.
So what’s missing?
I didn’t know, so what I decided to do was to play Kingdom Rush (KR) this week (which is supposed to be one of the best tower defence games of all time) and tried to break down ‘what makes it good’. I also decided to do the same with another great tower defence game: Plants vs Zombies 2 (PVZ2).
Here are some of the fundamental differences between those games and mine at this point in time.
Currently, my game has controls over unit production, but not STRICT controls on unit production. That means most effective strategy is always make as much money as possible, and therefore create as many units as possible. This works for a standard tower defence game, but I want to make a LEGENDARY tower defence game, so I must start to rethink this element.
My game currently does not currently capitalise on unique troop strengths/weaknesses to the extent that it should. This is also something I will have to look into.
There are more things I have noticed, but I will write about them another time.
K, so that's it for the week!
I must now go back to the drawing board, and start to rethink some of the fundamental aspects of my game. Even though the process is hard, my goal is to make the greatest game I possibly can, so this process will always be necessary.
Wish me luck!
I have been having a tough week development-wise. This has nothing to do with progress – I am still making progress quite quickly. This also has nothing to do with technical difficulty – I think I have solved all the major technical issues.
It becomes difficult to keep perspective.
Thankfully, Queen and David Bowie are here to help me through this:
I know nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, so I will keep on moving forward like I always do. Hopefully, this will all make a great story some day.
This week I thought I would blog about my progress this week on my upcoming game – a tower defence game that satirises typical action movie tropes.
First of all, I made some major changes to certain mechanics. One of those mechanics is the fighting mechanic. The fight animations that the NPCs engage in are random, which make for some very entertaining fight sequences. However, because of the random nature, it sometimes randomly occurred that the same fight animation repeated itself.
As a result, sometime you saw, for example, an NPC being punched in the face in the exact same way twice, which ended up looking a bit like this:
So I corrected it, and now there is a system that is still random, on condition that it never repeats itself. What that means is that the fight sequences now look more like this:
Boomshakalaka! This is going to be sweeeeeet!
I have also started recording glitches, for no other reason that I can watch them to make me laugh. Some of them are so ridiculous. For example, just three days ago, I had the issue that instead of an NPC running down the tower levels to do his job, he would instead jump off the top of the tower and start plummeting to his death.
A few weeks ago, I had the issue that instead of falling to their deaths, gravity would stop working and NPCs would swim through mid air until they went off the side of the screen. Ridiculous, haha
I think eventually, I will make a glitch compilation and upload it :)
Anyway, I wanted to keep this blog entry short because I still have a lot I need to accomplish (game-wise) today so I better get back to it.
Wish me luck!
A petition was started to remove this game from the app store – I was one of the 60,000 people who quickly signed it. Yesterday evening, I saw on the news that the game had been removed from the app store. Yay!
So what was it about this game in particular that offended me so much? Why did I draw the line there? I wanted to blog to clarify my feelings.
I have spent time in countries where you have to guard what you say, because if you say something that disrupts the powers that be, or offends the general population, there can be real and dangerous consequences for it. To give some examples (from several Countries I haven’t been to), if I went to Dubai, and made an Allah joke, then it would have been smart for me to sort out my will first. If I went to Thailand, and said something against the monarchy, then my time there would likely not be spent on a beach. Even body language isn’t safe - if I went to the Philippines, and I did the beckoning gesture at someone, that gesture could land me in jail.
Even though I would not do any of these things (I have no desire to offend/provoke people for no reason), I find it uncomfortable that there would be such serious consequences for doing so. I am not sure I could ever feel completely comfortable in a country placing such strict limitations on what I say, because I feel that the role of a government is to allow its citizens to be as free as possible. What I love about being in Australia is that to a large extent I can say what I want without fear of jail, or even death. Even though I don’t use that privilege to be an asshole, it is a nice comfort to know that I could be an asshole if I choose to be (I don’t know why that is important to me, haha).
The thing is, I actually don’t have COMPLETE freedom of speech in Australia, there are limits to what I can legally say. The legal limit on my freedom of speech is that I can’t use my freedom of speech to incite hatred against a particular people or group.
This made me reflect on is how every government has limited freedom of speech in order to protect the order of its nation. Whether this is used justifiably or unjustifiably depends on the country. Whether this order is worth protecting or not also depends on the country. I believe that the limit Australia placed on freedom of speech – in this case* – still allow people to voice justified dissent, but also prevents people from acting like a bunch of Hitlers. That is why I am okay drawing the line at this point.
Contrast this to Survival Island 3 – it is not far removed from reality. The events that this game is based on actually happened, in a real country, to a real population, and it was tragic. Survival Island 3 attempts to make that very real tragedy entertaining, inconsequential and fun, and that is deeply offensive, especially since the tragedy of all those years ago (in addition to others caused by colonisation) has had repercussions that negatively effect the aboriginal population today as well.
Survival Island 3, on the other hand, only targeted the aboriginal population, and portrayed them as violent and dangerous. In contrast, there are no judgments made against the main character you play as: the white man. This negative judgment of aboriginals, coupled with the neutral judgment of the protagonist, shows that satire was not intended. Rather, this unbalanced portrayal of characters serves as a horrid reminder of the apathy and racism of the colonisers. Therefore, making this game was a reminder that - at least in a small percentage of the population - that attitude still exists today. Overall, the effect this has is that it makes the player feel that they are participating in and reenacting one of the most (if not the most) tragic events in Australian history and that it isn’t even being recognized as a tragedy. This – simply put – is wrong.
I don't believe that games should shy away from controversial issues. As a matter of fact, I believe that games have a unique opportunity to explore controversial issues because of the interactivity of the medium. However, Survival Island 3 has been an important reminder that delicate subjects and controversial issues should be treated with tact, or approached through satire. Otherwise, a game can cause a lot of harm, and propagate some really negative attitudes. It has also been a reminder that if you are lucky enough to live in a place that has freedom of expression - use it responsibly.
K, that is the end of this week's blog entry. I think there is a lot more to explore about where the line is (and indeed if there is one), but for now, I will stop writing and get back to programming for my upcoming game - kitten punching simulator
*Australia also has placed a limit on the freedom of speech on those who want to speak out about the horrible conditions at Manu Island (which is where Australia sends its Asylum seekers). Speaking about this can get you jail time. In this case, I am NOT okay with my freedom of speech being limited. What makes these cases different is that in the game example, limiting free speech prevents the aggravation and propagation of violence. In the Manu Island case, limiting free speech allows violence perpetrated by the government to continue.
In this week’s blog entry, I am going to write about a milestone I reached, the game ‘Undertale’, and the game making community.
The Milestone – as mentioned last week, my upcoming game is going to be divided into three major parts. I completed the levels comprising part 1 a few weeks ago, and then Wednesday this week, I completed the levels comprising part 2.
Do you ever worry that your game will never be completed? I know I sure do. Sometimes I think that by the time my game will be released, people will play it on their iPhone 23! Focusing on how much there is yet to do sure can be daunting– that being said, I won’t ever give up. I’ve already come so far, so know that if I just keep on moving forward one step at a time, I will eventually get there. Furthermore, I really like the development process, so I am not going to stop doing something that I enjoy so much.
You can choose how you go about resolving conflicts with the monsters – through relationship, or through domination. It is a game where your choices matter, and you can see how they impact yourself, others, and the world around you.
Despite its simple, 2D appearance, this game is a lot deeper than many games on a multi-million dollar budget certainly have been. In many AAA games, violence is the only solution, and indeed, the preferred one. In contrast, Undertale makes people think about and question their own actions.
I want to make the type of games that make people think and question human nature and the world around them, and Undertale executed that perfectly. The game simply blew my mind. To know that someone can create a game like this – which is vastly different to most games on the market – and still do well, gives me encouragement that the path I am choosing may potentially work out.
Within a day, I had heard from about 5 different people, each proposing a different solution. My issue was quickly solved.
I know I wouldn’t have been able to come as far as I have without substantial help from other gamemakers, so I guess I just want to say that I’m grateful. It is humbling and awesome to be part of such a cool community. If every industry comprised of people as cool as those in the gaming one, all of the world’s problems would have been solved years ago ;)
Anyway, an interesting week – gotta keep moving forward. Wish me luck!
I have been doing a branding course over the last three weeks. Recently, we had to do a branding exercise in which we try to arrive at the core idea of a brand. The model you use to do this is called the butterfly model.
I did this exercise, and it was really interesting – it made me reflect on my purpose and why I got into this business in the first place.
Up until 2013, my life was heading in a completely different direction. I was likely going to go into mediation, which (in case you haven’t heard about it) is a form of conflict resolution. It was that year I enrolled in my Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies degree.
Up until that point, I had a really small and amateurish understanding of what causes war, what causes peace, gender issues, social justice, human rights, etc. Doing this degree was like an awakening – my understanding of myself the world around me transformed.
This understanding – to a large extent – is what makes me unique.
What doing this exercise made me realize is that I want my games to reflect this understanding. I want them to explore delicate subjects and make relevant and important points, and I want my games to question the status quo. The outcome of this is that I want all people who play my games to be influenced for the better. Gaming should be an engaging and meaningful experience, and I want to play a big role in creating those experiences.
Have you tried this exercise? What did you learn about your purpose?
Hope you enjoyed the post and have an awesome week
Over a month ago, I decided to make some major changes to my game. I knew these changes would be very difficult for someone of my technical skill level to make, and be extremely time consuming to implement. I knew I had to do it though because I intend to make the best game I possibly can, and these changes were necessary to make that happen.
Anyway, what I was finding is that the task ahead of me was so daunting that I would make excuses not to work on it. Even when I was working on it, I wouldn’t give it my full attention. For example, I started getting into the habit of having an episode of ‘The Flash’ playing in the background while I programmed. What I quickly learned is that when you split your attention between computer programming and The Flash, The Flash always wins.
Eventually, I became frustrated at my lack of progress so decided to make some changes. Since I was feeling overwhelmed, I broke the task down into smaller parts. I then told myself that each day, I would get one part done no matter what.
These two changes worked beautifully, and got me moving forward again. Eventually, I increased my target from one to two parts, and a few days later from two to three. This trend has continued, and I am now moving forward again at breakneck speed – woohoo!
So if you are a developer who finds themselves in a similar situation, I suggest breaking things down into simpler elements and giving the problems your full attention (with the help of our dear friend: caffeinated beverages)