Korrode – New Game Preview

Game Business Games

A challenging level from Korrode

Korrode is a brand new game that I have just finished. You get to play the part of entropy as a racing rust spot zipping around corroding metal bolts. It’s a level based racer that combines aspects of puzzle and time trial agility games.

My initial seed of an idea for the game was about crossing a 2d Katamari Damacy with Flow. The game has also drawn heavy comparisons to the excellent game Osmos but I had never heard of that game before beta test players started pointing that out. I wanted to explore the fun level design that would occur in a game where the level topology is constantly changing based on your scale.

The game isn’t released yet but I created a video game trailer so players and potential sponsors could get a sneak peek at what it is all about. Sponsors with an account on Flash Game License can also play the game here to consider placing a bid on it.

I’ve worked on Korrode on and off since January of this year. It is the largest game in both scope and time commitment that I’ve developed yet. I was very inspired by some entropy-themed texture photos a good friend of mine (Jeremy P. Bushnell) took from his travels around Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. He gave me permission to use these photos as the base for a lot of the photo manipulation work I did to create both the UI and the levels for the game.

Grease is the natural enemy of rust.

I also had the pleasure of recording the game’s soundtrack which was a refreshing break from coding. I was able to create 9 unique music loops using the sounds of factories, metal clanging, machines, and other industrial ephemera to build the rhythm tracks. I then composed some simple melodies to go over them. The trailer features a longer version of one of the songs from the game.

The game uses a pretty cool technology from the Playtomic analytic service I use that allows me to embed player replays in the actual highscore data for a level. This means that when a player finishes playing a level their new best time is automatically submitted to the global leaderboards for that level. Then when players view the leaderboards they can actually watch the replays from anyone’s run in the score charts. It’s a great way to encourage competition and allow the players to race each other’s replay “ghosts” after they finish watching the replays. It also provides a built in walk through of sorts if player’s are just curious how other people solved a level in the quickest time.

Watch out for the moving walls!

I’m pretty excited about this game and I really can’t wait to see the replays that top players will generate. I’ve already learned a bunch about the levels I designed by watching the beta testers solve them! The sponsorship process can take awhile though so I have to be patient. I’ve got plenty of other projects to keep me occupied anyway!

 

 

Flash Game Polish Tips: Audio

Tutorials

HeadphonesI spend a lot of time thinking about things that will improve my Flash games. If you use sponsorship or licensing models in the Flash game business you are really marketing to two audiences–your players and your potential sponsors.

I want to provide the best experience I can to my players within a reasonable amount of effort while at the same time I also want to make sure my game is going to provide as little friction as possible to potential sponsorship or licensing.

To that end I have 5 tips I wanted to share for dealing with audio in your Flash games that I’ve found helpful:

Tip #1 – Normalize your music and sound effects

This is a very simple tip but it is too often overlooked. Normalizing is basically just making sure that the loudest volume levels of all your sound effects and music are at a consistent and good target peak.

Normalizing your audio assets before you import them into your Flash library is a good way to improve your workflow. You know that all your audio is within a consistent peak range and you can balance further with your software volume settings.

You can use a free program like Audacity to provide normalization. I’ve found the default setting of normalizing to -3dB works well.  If you are using Windows 7 you’ll want to get the beta for Audacity.

Tip #2 – Individual controls for sound effects and music

Why provide two controls? A nice thing about having independent controls for sound effects and music is that it can give the player more freedom over the experience of your game. It can allow them to keep your sound effects playing but still jam out to their own music. Another reason is sometimes the player doesn’t mind the sound effects but maybe the music is starting to get repetitive the 100th time they’ve played your chain reaction game. I look for any little tips to keep players happy and in the game and I’ve had many positive player comments from implementing this feature.

Tip #3 – Provide common key bindings for audio control toggles

Setup a keyboard listener in Flash to respond to some common keys. I like to bind the ‘S’ key to toggle the sound effects and the ‘M’ key to toggle the music.  This is a real simple touch that allows your players to quickly mute your game when they can’t find the onscreen audio controls. Remember to provide text somewhere to let your players know these settings controls!

Tip #4 – Use volume sliders for sound effects and music

The good thing about providing volume sliders over a simple mute/un-mute toggle is that your players can mix the volume to suit their individual speakers or headphones. It can be incredibly hard to master and mix your game volumes correctly so that it will sound decent and in balance across the many audio systems it will be played through. Volume sliders give the power to the players to tweak one up or down to get that balance that is pleasing to their ears.

Tip #5 – Save sound and music settings in a shared object

This last tip I have implemented most recently based on some player feedback I got. I really like this tip because it never occurred to me until I received a story from a player. The player got busted by their boss for playing one of my games in the office because they were surprised when they loaded it up again and the audio of both the preloader intro movies and the main menu music was still enabled.  They had just assumed that since they had muted the game audio the last time they had played that it would have remembered!

Well I had never really thought of this feature before but it was quite easy to implement and has been really awesome. You can use a Shared Object in Flash to track any changes to the audio controls.  You might be using one already to record local highscore data and you can just record your audio settings to this object.  Then when your game loads you can check the Shared Object to see what the audio settings were (if any) the last time they played. If there isn’t any data then you can just enable it as as default. This allows you to mute the preloader intro movies and menu music when they return if they had disabled it in a previous gameplay session!

Got any other good audio related tips? Share them below in the comments!

Two Thousand Ten and Beyond!

Game Business Games Life

Sitting here on the first day of 2011 I found it rewarding to revisit what I was able to accomplish this past year. A year is such a long time that I often forget all the projects that I’ve worked on. As the year winds down I tend to find myself wishing that I had managed to finish more games so I was happy to discover that I had published more titles than I thought!

5 Games Published in 2010

Robot Reaction released for iPhone

Robot Reaction was one of my Flash games from 2009 that I completely rewrote to work with the Flash CS5 Beta program. I was able to use the iPhone Packager for CS5 to get my first game into the Apple App Store.  It was a great learning experience in old school optimization techniques like bitmap blitting as well as a sobering business look at how hard it can be to make any money in the App Store vs the Flash business space I was familiar with.

Play Robot Reaction!

Mouth Full of Happy

While I was out at the Flash Gaming Summit and the Game Developers Conference I got to meet up with the fine folks over at the Kongregate office in San Francisco to hatch out plans for an advergame for Cheetos and Frito Lay. It was my first foray into contract advergame work and I had a great time working to create this game.  It was based off of my Orange You Glad game that people at Cheetos had spotted over on Kongregate and wanted me to create a custom version with the Cheetos theme.

Play Mouth Full of Happy!

Contentric

Feeling a lot of inspiration after my return from the Indie Gaming Summit at the Game Developers Conference I wanted to get more involved in some of the online game competitions that were run monthly over at the Experimental Gameplay Project. Contentric was created in a week for the EGP theme of You Only Have 10 Seconds and I was quite happy with the result. I was even more pleased when Armor Games decided to sponsor it!

Play Contentric!

For The Twin

Next on my hit list was the desire to finally participate in one of the competitions over at the TIGSource forums. There was a new month long competition being run with the theme of A Game By It’s Cover that had a fascinating concept to me. We were to pick a fake game cartridge whose art inspired us to think up an actual game based on the fake art. For The Twin was what I managed to come up with by using this case art.  Besides creating a lot of creepy cute art and backgrounds for the game I also composed seven faux chiptune loops in Reason for the game that came out quite well. The game ended up being sponsored by Spil Games and was played over one million times in the first month alone–a new milestone for me!

Play For The Twin!

AVOIDAL

The last game I published in 2010 was initially created for the 18th Ludum Dare 48hr game competition theme of Enemies as Weapons and polished up for the Experimental Gameplay Project theme of Zero Buttons. I went with a retro look and classic arcade gameplay for this challenging avoider collector mouse skills game. I then spent the month of October working on a final version of the game for the Ludum Dare October Challenge to sell a game in a month. Newgrounds ended up sponsoring AVOIDAL and I got to create a bunch of medal achievements that were pretty fun to try and win.

Play AVOIDAL!

Failure To Launch

I also found it insightful to take a look at all the games I worked on yet did not manage to publish for one reason or another. Many of these games are still on my todo list for 2011 and will see the light of day eventually.  Digging through my directories I discovered that I had worked on a total of 12 games this year while only publishing 5. I’m not sure if that is good or bad but it is worth keeping on eye on since I do believe in trying to finish games in order to get the most experience and value from them.

I had attempted to learn an early version of Flash Punk and I found it to be a really great Flash game framework. My efforts stalled out though with this untitled retro dodge game and I still have to learn the newest version.

I made a game in two hours for one of the crazy Glorious Trainwrecks Klik of the Month Klub #35 events called Wizards vs Ghosts which I find amusing.  Creating a game in only two hours is truly mind breaking!

I”m still actively working on a final expanded version of my 2009 Ludum Dare game called Angry Caverns and a 2009 Ludum Dare game called Fleedom. I’m still developing a pixel art arcade game called Bomb Diver as well as collaborating with another game designer/artist on a ridiculous game about pooping pigeons and bicycles.

Fun Goals And Milestones

A few of the random things I am happy about from 2010 include finally getting to go to my first Game Developers Conference as well as attending the Flash Gaming Summit the Sunday before GDC. It was a truly inspiring week spent in San Francisco and I met so many awesome game developers and Flash publishers. I am really looking forward to returning again this year.

Another great milestone was getting a New Hampshire LLC for Hybrid Mind Studios so it is all official and everything.

On the competition side of things I managed to host my first Mini Ludum Dare event around the theme of Constraints which I felt had a great turnout of submitted games and was fairly well received by the community. My game Alien Flight Academy – Graduation Day was the result of that competition. A bizarre experiment in alternate keyboard controls.

As I mentioned previously I finally had a Flash game break the one million views mark. It was a simple milestone I had looked forward to finally achieving.  2010 marks my second full year releasing Flash games and it is so amazing to look back at my first Flash game TurnStyle which was released in Feb of 2009 and only ever got about 150k plays total and compare that to my more recent games that reach millions. That fact just continues to floor me. I never dreamed that I might be able to reach such a large audience with my games, art, and music! The Flash game space offers game designers an amazing distribution opportunity that I find very inspiring, humbling, and flattering all at the same time. I look forward to trying to reach more and more people as I improve my craft.

Determined to get more involved in the local game development community around Boston I started attending monthly Boston Indies meetups and the local Boston Game Loop conference. I even started up a weekly game development co-work meetup down in Cambridge, MA at Sprout for three months to help myself meet other area game developers. It’s been great getting to know so many fine people in my neck of the woods.

Along the same lines as getting involved more locally–near the end of 2010 I had the good opportunity to take part in my first team game jam too! I was at a Boston Game Jam event called Lunar Jam and I helped out primarily as the artist doing many black and white illustrations for a choose your own adventure type visual novel game called Perchance to Dream that is still in development.

I’ve managed to work with great portals like Armor Games, Big Fish Games, Newgrounds, Kongregate, King, Spil, Addicting Games and many others. Each new relationship I establish helps me to feel more comfortable that I’ll be able to continue doing independent game development full time–my childhood dream!

Moving Forward

Looking at what I have planned for 2011 is pretty exciting to me. There are many games I’ve been working on that are nearing completion that I can’t wait to publish to see what the players think. I also want to collaborate more with other game designers, artists, musicians, and programmers. I plan to keep attending conferences like the Flash Gaming Summit and the Game Developers Conference as well as other regional and local events. I hope to keep learning new technologies, skills, and game design techniques. I look forward to building my relationships with other game developers. I have so many game ideas that the lists are growing out of control. I hope I can manage to stay focused and driven enough to get even a tenth of these new ideas out. I can’t wait to see what 2011 holds for myself as well as the other game developers out there.

Bring on the games!

AVOIDAL – New Flash Game Released

Games

My latest game AVOIDAL just launched today over on Newgrounds!

This one is a very challenging mouse skills game with a mechanic I find to be quite fun.

Don’t take my word for it though–check it out!

For those of you logged in with a Newgrounds account there are 23 medals (some very tough) to win.

Here is a gameplay trailer.

You can also play the game on AVOIDAL.COM

AVOIDAL was originally made for the most recent Ludum Dare 48hr game competition. I then worked on it further for the Experimental Gameplay Project theme of “Zero Buttons.” AVOIDAL was also my entry into the Ludum Dare “October Challenge” where you try and sell a game. It ended up getting a sponsorship from Newgrounds.

For The Twin – New Flash Game Released

Games Music

My latest game For The Twin has finally been released!

It features seven original chiptunes I composed for the game and countless animating backgrounds and alien creatures.

The basic gameplay is one of finding the identical twin to match the goal but it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Their are six different challenges with highscores and medals to win.

The alien twins dance to the music as you attempt to identify the correct match.

My goal was to make a game that would have appeal to more than just teenage boys–I wanted both women and children to enjoy the game as well–hoping that each would be able to take something different away from it. So far feedback from all demographics has been really good!

For The Twin was originally developed for the TIGSource “A Game By It’s Cover” competition. The artwork in the game was inspired by this fake Famicase game cover by artist Kayo Tamura.

I even kept a complete development diary for the game.

After the competition was finished I put my game up over at Flash Game License to find a primary sponsorship.

I was pleased to secure a nice sponsorship from Spil Games for their Family Portal Group. I handed a massive translation file over to them and they had my game localized into 13 different languages for distribution across their 50 or so arcade portals worldwide.  The exposure potential is huge to say the least.  The game has already received almost 200K views since it started being published by them yesterday.

I have also put the game up over at Newgrounds so feel free to stop by and rate and review it over there if you feel like helping out.

All told I’m quite pleased with the game.  I decided to take a genre I didn’t really like (find the match) and make a game that tried to explore it the best I could given the 1 month competition time limit.  I am also very thankful that I was then able to successfully monetize the game as well which is critical to my small game studio.  Besides the primary sponsorship I have already begun lining up secondary non-exclusive licenses which is quite exciting to see so much interest so soon.

Give For The Twin a play and I’d love to hear any feedback–thanks!