Time marches forward, and so does our game development.  I’ve been trying to keep my head down, nose to the keyboard, continuously working.  It’s better on some days than others.  But the game is coming together, and we’re more-or-less in the polish phase of development.  Still some gameplay bits to test and consider, but the game is very playable.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it works on our Android tablet without any modification.  Of course, I still have to move some UI stuff around since the resolution isn’t the same as the iPhone/iPad, but it was heartening nonetheless.  We may be able to have a true multi-platform release after all.

I’ve heard several developers mention that the Android market is not worth the effort to support, as it’s fragmented, has multiple device configurations, and far fewer people actually buy things on it.  I’ve heard others say that if you’re working in a multi-platform dev tool (like we are with Unity), you’re essentially just leaving money on the table by not releasing an Android version.  Both are valid points.  So I’m trying to go somewhere in the middle, where I only support phones and tablets that have high resolution, say no less than 640×960.  I know it will limit my market a bit, but at least where Android is concerned, releasing on some devices is way better than releasing on 0 devices.  At that resolution, I can still release to the Galaxy Tab and the Kindle Fire, and probably several other devices as well.

In other news, I’m still constantly second-guessing myself, as is my nature, but I keep trying to remember that this is a learning experience and things aren’t as bad as I make them out to be.  For the past year, I’ve been trying to strangle my inner pessimist, and have had mostly positive results, but he still shows up on occasion.  I’ve been told by others that my game is better than I think it is, and that it’s improving at a quick pace as opposed to the pace of glaciers that I feel.  It’s still something that’s hard for me to accept, though.  One thought did hit me today as I was looking through my art and found my castle designs.  Here’s what my first castle looked like in mid November (granted, it was supposed to be placeholder art, but still):

This is the castle 2 weeks later:

Maybe I’m improving after all…

Batteries Beware!

More progress this week, and some intense discussions on what features to add/not add and where.  I get antsy and impatient with my perceived slow progress, given that I can only work on the game in my spare time.  I’m told that my progress isn’t slow, though, so maybe it’s just me overthinking things.  Anyone who knows me will know that overthinking things is one of my pasttimes.

We had some great playtesting over the past Easter weekend, as several family members grabbed our phones and iPad and proceeded to play all evening, running out the charge on a couple of devices.  I’d say that’s one of the best compliments a game designer could get, followed by “damn you for making such an addictive game!”  Now we just need to get it into the hands of other players.  A lot of other players.

Time to get to work.  More as it happens!

Pants Kick 2 – The Enkickening

So, I had a change of plans over the weekend.  What was originally going to be the Molyjam challenge ended up being a renewed determination to finish my current game.  I found some words of encouragement from other indie developers that really helped my perspective.  I’m reminded of a quote from Neil Peart, who himself quoted an anonymous bathroom stall poet, who said “Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion.  You must set yourself on fire.”  And indeed, I feel fired up this week.  I was able to clear out most of the few dozen issues that Tiffany found while testing the latest build, and checked off several features and art tasks I’d been meaning to do.  At this pace, I should be able to submit the game for release within the next few weeks, so we’ll see how it goes.

Past that release and any subsequent fixes and ports to other platforms, we have some big ideas for where to go next.  One of the things that’s been on my mind for at least the past year was a subject of the latest Extra Credits episode on Penny Arcade:  “Transgaming“.  Essentially, it’s about people being able to collaborate over several different games, even in different genres, in order to help others succeed.  So, for instance, one player could be playing a puzzle game where they collect iron, and it could be sent to another player playing a Real Time Strategy title, giving them bonuses to their resources.  This kind of thing seems very exciting to me, and I think larger game companies have barely scratched the surface of this notion.  I hope to expand on those ideas, if I can just get the time to implement them.

Anyway, time isn’t getting any longer, so onward we go!

A Pants Kick…

Wow, another week already.  Ugh.  Time is going by too quickly.  I had slowed down somewhat from last weekend as day and night work was getting to me.  As of yesterday, though, I’ve refocused and was able to get a good bit done.

My mind’s been on several things this week.  I had just commented to Tiffany last weekend that Draw Something was taking over the social and mobile market, and that one of my future goals was to make a cross-platform game like it, something that people could play in alternating turns and at their leisure.  And then Zynga buys the company out for $180 million.  I know Zynga and the social/mobile crazes have had a lot of money changing hands over the past few years, but the deal still surprised me.  Sometimes, I wonder if someone like myself can compete in that field given that we’re 2 people, but on the other hand, no one really knows what going to take off next and set the social world to buzzing.  All I know is that I want to create games that I would play, and the hope is that others will want to as well.

Another interesting topic this week was the Banner Saga Kickstarter.  I saw the art style, setting, and gameplay and I knew I had to contribute immediately.  If I could pull off an art style half as good as the 3-man team from Stoic, I’d be pretty happy.  It also makes me want to write a Fire Emblem or Ogre Battle style of game, because it seems like that niche is lacking for games.  That takes a lot of programming, artwork, dialog, and story, though, so I’m not sure I’ll ever get to make it.  Still, things like Banner Saga give me some hope.

Anyway, I should probably get done with my current game before I start working on others!  Except for the Molyjam next weekend, where I’ll be attempting to make a game in 2 days using one of @PeterMolydeux’s insane game ideas.  I think I’ve decided on “Could playing as a vending machine be fun? That is my question to you young designers out there today.”  Tiff and I have some humorous ideas about how you’d play as a vending machine, so we’ll see how it goes.  Happy gaming!

It Appears To Be….Jammed!

Game work was slow this week due to extra hours at the day job, but I hope to make a good bit of progress this weekend.  I was able to get in-app payments tested and working from last week, so that’s happy.  Hopefully the game will be in a testable beta state within the next few weeks.  There are finger crossings!

In other news, I’ve decided to participate in my first game jam, and it’s a weird one.  It’s called the MolyJam2012, inspired by the Peter Molyneux parody on Twitter (@PeterMolydeux).  The guy behind the parody has been listing crazy, off-the-wall game ideas for quite a while, and a collection of developers decided to have a game jam based on a selected idea from his ramblings.  I won’t be attending any of the locations, like San Francisco or NYC, but I’ll still create a game from one of his nutty ideas.

Not sure which one to do, though.  Should I make a game where you’re a mystical rabbit at a bus stop in winter, trying different ways to make people miss their busses?  Or perhaps a game where “you are a coin being passed around, traveling as far as possible, placing yourself in ideal places to be picked up and transported”?  “You are a Pigeon who must go around the city trying to persuade business men not to jump off buildings by retrieving items from their home?”  There are many possibilities.  It should give me some extra experience and practice in different game design styles, and if I make a crappy game that doesn’t work, no one will really care!  Besides, with only 2 days to create it, I’m not expecting much, but it should be a fun and educational exercise.

On the Winding Road

The game is coming along, although slowly.  I’ve had a bit of a setback due to my day job, as I’ll no longer be able to work from home soon and will have to take on more responsibility.  As I’ve been saying a lot over the past few years, it appears that the reward for doing excellent work is essentially more work.  Not that it’s bad, necessarily.  It’s a good thing to have work and be employed, but constantly providing high output and not being rewarded for it except by “continued employment” is one of the reasons I started my own game company.  I hope that one day I’ll be able to obtain full rewards for the fruit of my labor.  That, and to have my own creative work out there that people can see and enjoy.  Working for so many years in corporate and government custom software, there’s almost no body of work I could show anyone anymore.  Those applications are locked away from public view, and some are gone altogether.

Anyway, enough of being inward and morose, back to the game.  Here’s an animation of the Dire Wolf minion you can use to scare away villagers.

There are currently 7 different villagers and minions spread out across 70 levels.  Still thinking about how the game is going to end, I haven’t decided yet.  Do I stop at 80?  Do I have an end boss?  Does it just continue forever?  I’m still not sure.  The game changes here and there as I learn more, but it’s been in a playable state for a while now and I’m getting much closer to beta.

Things still left to do:  a new title screen, reworking of minion art and animation, some UI graphic tweaks, a tutorial, an in-game store, and more testing/balancing of gameplay.  At the end, it should be a solid, enjoyable puzzle game.  I could probably just go ahead and release it at this point, but I don’t feel right about it yet.

I’m also not sure about pricing.  Part of me wants to say “it’s a puzzle game, release it at $.99 and be done with it”.  The other part says “releasing it for free and making some sales through in-app payments is the way to go”.  I’m planning to put in-app payments in the game in either case, but not in a way that tries to take advantage of a player.  For instance, I only have 1 type of currency in the game (the pumpkin coins), instead of the normal freemium model which has 2:  the “abundant” currency and the “really scarce” currency that ends up being the “real” currency, bought with real money.  There’s an option to buy more pumpkin coins in our game (assuming I get it to work), but that’s it.  Coins are gathered during game play, and each player can try to gather more or less coins depending on their particular strategy.  There are unlockable stats you can change during the game, but those are bought with pumpkin coins too.  I’m hoping to keep the economy system very simple and straightforward.

Anyway, I should stop writing and get back to coding.  Happy gaming!

On Bats and Broccoli

So, we’re moving along on our little game, and I thought I’d post a bit more about it.  Here’s the back story:  A “young” vegetarian vampire has been cast out by his sire for his non-bloodsucking ways, and must find a new home.  He happens upon a long-vacant castle that’s strangely in move-in condition.  The nearby villagers, however, aren’t very fond of the idea that a vampire lives within their backyards, even though the only things he would attack are salads.

Here’s a snippet of our little guy and his castle, done in my “semi-decent…for a programmer” art style.

The game is a match-3+ puzzle game, in the vein of Dungeon Raid or Puzzle Quest.  You create a winding path of matching tiles vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, collecting vegetables (health), coffins (defense), coins (coins), and minion spells (to scare villagers away).  At the same time, and on the same board, villagers are attacking you with pitchforks, torches, arrows, and so forth.  By matching these attacks with coffin tiles, you defend yourself against damage.  There are also upgradeable stats as you progress, so that you can get more health, defense, etc., along the way.

Here’s what the game board looks like, although it’s subject to change, and doesn’t show the whole screen.  I’ve selected a number of bat tiles in this shot, which will be used to summon a horde of bats, scaring some of the villagers away.

This will be the first full game we’ve ever created, much less to sell, so even though we’re trying our best, we know it will be rough around the edges.   This is the first step to bigger and better games as we get more experienced at making them, and we hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Here We Start, At the Beginning

Hello there, all 3 of you! Welcome to our site! As you can see, it’s filled with a plethora of gaming entertainment and knowledge.  Hopefully, in the very near future, we’ll actually have games here too!  In the meantime, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself, which should provide a great 47 seconds of reading material before you go back to the other open tabs in your browser.

I’ve been fairly obsessed with computers and video games since about age 3, starting out on the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64, and a few arcade machines like Donkey Kong.  I’ve been programming for a long time, about 25 years, and my earliest programs (at around age 7) were centered around games.  However, I didn’t cultivate that as much as I feel I should have, growing up.  I found more fun in playing games than trying to write them.  Fast forward through my college days studying Computer Science and breaking out into the corporate software world, and the idea of creating games was a distant, but ever nagging, feeling in the back of my mind.

Today, I feel like the world of video games is so wide open, my younger self would find it nearly incomprehensible.  There are so many ways to create games and get them out to individual players these days, and I feel like it’s time for me to grab hold of the possibilities.  I feel that we have a lot to offer gamers of all types and experiences.  I see the wave of new game players coming into our world daily, and I hear the calls of the more seasoned gamers who want to find something new and magical again.  I can’t promise that all of our games will find an audience with every type of gamer, but as long as someone out there finds them fun and engaging, we’ve done well.  Besides, games that try to appeal to everyone frequently end up appealing to no one.

Anyway, our first game is going to be a vampire-themed matching game, though probably not the theme or gameplay you expect.  Our targeted platforms for now are iPhone, iPad, web portals, and possibly Android.  We’ll post more about it in the coming weeks as we get closer to finishing.  There should be a beta as well, and we’d be happy to have you involved, so stay tuned.  Happy gaming!

The Girl in the Fireplace

So much has been going on lately, it’s hard to keep up.  I feel like the gaming world is teetering on the edge of something brilliant lately, between Double Fine’s Kickstarter campaign and Mojang’s Humble Bundle.  Game developers are communicating ever more directly with their consumers, discovering what users want and then delivering it in spectacular fashion.

I hope that Perceptive Pumpkin can do the same, once we start getting our games out there.  Getting feedback and actually listening to it is one of the best ways to improve your product – we’ve both learned that lesson from many years working as developers for larger companies.

We each have our own ideas about what’s “fun” in a game – he likes Dwarf Fortress and Civilization, I like Bioshock and World of Warcraft.  He can play Rock Band and Mario games for weeks, I’ll spend endless hours on hidden object and tile matching “time wasters”.  Yet we both love games like Skyrim, Fallout 3, and Minecraft.  So we discuss and develop, tweak and test, then hand the game over to a younger cousin or older aunt, and discover a whole different side to a game we thought we knew inside and out.  Some developers might find that annoying, or frustrating – I think it’s amazing.


Objects in Space

Starting a gaming company while simultaneously starting a new blog about said company is a bit like fighting an epic boss battle while trying to listen to your spouse explain the video game publishing article he read this morning – you end up with a pile of loot and new insight into financial freedom! Just kidding. It’s actually very tricky to keep everything straight in your head, and sometimes you just don’t think you’re doing either thing properly.

I’ve never blogged before, and being a typical introverted geek- and gamer-girl, I’ve never particularly wanted to. But I think we have a lot of great game ideas, and the best path to success means sharing those games and the process of creating them with the world. (that’s you) So I’ll fumble along on here, knowing nobody is reading, hoping somebody is, as we make progress with our first game and hopefully make it to a release date someday.

My plan is to design an interesting, professional site, and post interesting and professional things onto it, until we run out of ideas. So I’ll get to work on that design thing, and start posting tidbits about our first game as it progresses.