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Cartoon Network Game Jam

The second weekend of February, I participated in the Cartoon Network Game Jam. I was on the Fat Little Rain Cloud team, which was 6 developers based out of Eugene: Ted Brown, Ed Friese, Michael Jones, Jay Michael McCarthy, and Peng Xu.

cartoon-network-game-jam

We got to Portland Fryday afternoon, and dropped off some equipment before we went and checked into our hotel rooms. Yeah, we didn’t go all badass and stay up for the whole weekend. We’ve all been doing this long enough to know that you can work better when you’re well rested.

After getting checked in, there was a keynote talk with the organizers and the creators of OK, K.O.! They explained a bit about the characters and universe, the idea behind the property, and how the game jam fits into it.

They then randomly assigned a character to each team, and we got to work. Our character was Dogmun. A dog who was bitten by a radioactive dog and became half-man/half-dog. Yeah, it makes as much sense as it sounds.

So, we headed for the nearest bar and started brainstorming ideas for the game. We tried to come up with super powers related to every type of dog behavior that we could think of. Everything from sniffing butts, to peeing on things, to burying stuff, and eventually fetching. We ended up making his super power be the ability to throw his own ball, and do a rocket fetch move that lets him fly through the air and crash through objects. After deciding on the mechanic, we got the project set up and ready to go before we headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, we got to work on the gameplay and animations. There was still some discussion about the background story for the game and how the details would work. We started with a 3D platforming game, and had it up and running in a couple hours. We quickly realized that the 3D controls were too confusing, and we switched to a 2D platformer. That gave us the ability to control the arc and strength of the throw, instead of simply aiming the ball. It felt much better, was easier to understand, and made the level layout simpler.

The end result was a game where you would tap on the screen to tell Dogmun to walk to a position. If you tapped and held the screen, you could drag your finger to aim a throw like a slingshot, in a similar manner to Angry Birds. If you tapped the screen while a ball was in the air, then Dogmun would fly to the ball at high speed and fetch it, while destroying almost anything in his path.

Overall, it was a fun mechanic, and we had it up and running on the PC and mobile. Everybody who tested it seemed to have fun with it, and it was exciting to see how quickly they figured out how to play.

Every team received feedback on their game from the OK K.O. creators, and was allowed to work on the games to address the feedback over the next few weeks. We cleaned up some stuff and finished up the puzzles for our demo level, and…

We placed in the top 16!

cartoon-network-game-jam-interview

We won $3000 for the team, and were interviewed for a special that may air on Cartoon Network someday. All in all, a pretty successful first game jam I’d say.

I believe that once the special airs, I may be able to post a link to the game. Either Cartoon Network will post some of the games online, or we can use the game without their characters and publish it ourselves. We’ll see what happens.

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I Found A Laprechaun!

I Found A Laprechaun!

I did it! I finally found a laptop that runs VR! It’s like a leprechaun laptop, which for the purposes of this blog post I’m calling a laprechaun. I actually found a leprechaun a few years ago, and it was harder to find a laptop that ran VR. So, I’m understating it a little.Leprechaun

ASUS ROG GL552VW-DH71

It’s an ASUS ROG (Republic Of Gamers) laptop, which is marketed as a gaming laptop. Whatever they want to call it, it actually runs the latest version of the Oculus software (0.8). Of course, it may be disabled by the final version of the software. But I won’t have that until March at the earliest, and by then my desktop will be able to run the Rift. That means it’s time to get back to work on the games. As a pleasant, color-coordinated coincidence, the red lights on the laptop match the ridiculous case for my desktop. So, it looks like I planned it.

New Year’s Resolution

I suppose I can count this as a new year’s resolution, even if it’s only for this month. I have a few weeks until my next contract gig (so far), so I’m planning on getting Oculus, Gear VR, and Cardboard versions of VR Meteors, VR Missile Control, and VR Discs Of Golf done by the end of the month. That sounds like plenty to do for the next few weeks.

Gear VR Motivation

I feel like I finally have some true motivation to get the Gear VR builds working, since I don’t have a way to play them yet. My girlfriend’s dad has a Galaxy S6 phone, so of course we got him a Gear VR for Christmas. Now I need to get some arcade remakes done so that he has something to play. I suppose he’ll be able to add “Video Game Tester” to his resume as well. As long as I make them fun enough to play, that is.

SO MANY GAMES!

The main problem with having a new computer is the overwhelming urge to play all of the new games that wouldn’t run on your old machine, instead of working. I’ve actually spent the past couple days playing Dishonored, which came out 3 years ago. So, I haven’t exactly taxed the computer yet. If you are a fan of the System Shock, Deus Ex, and Bioshock games, you should definitely check it out. One of the directors and writers is Harvey Smith, who worked with Warren Spector on System Shock, and the first two Deus Ex games. You can tell, in a good way. I’ll leave it at that.

I suppose Rise Of The Tomb Raider will probably be the first true test. It comes out on 1/28, just in time for my birthday. (I know what I’ll be getting for myself.) I have my fingers crossed that it’ll support stereoscopic 3D as well as the previous Tomb Raider game. That was easily the best 3D experience I’ve had with any media. That’s including Avatar and Pacific Rim, so you know I’m serious. I’m also looking forward to Dishonored 2 now.

I suspect I’ll be posting more updates this month as well, since I’ll actually be doing stuff. We’ll see…

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Gems Of War

Gems Of War

Gems Of War

It’s official! A game that I did some contract work on has shipped. Gems Of War is now available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It’s the latest Puzzle/RPG from the original creators of Puzzle Quest.

Match 3 Puzzle Battles

The game itself is based on a match-3 puzzle mechanic, similar to Candy Crush Saga. Instead of single-player puzzles with different layouts and special pieces, the puzzles in Gems Of War are openly laid out and played against an AI opponent. Each side has a team of up to 4 characters who have special attributes and abilities. The player alternates taking turns with the AI, and as you match different colored gems (or skulls), you build up magic points which allow the characters to use their special abilities. Matching skulls and, most of the time, using special abilities deals damage to the opposing team. The last team with remaining characters wins the match.

I was a fan of Puzzle Quest many years ago, so I was pretty excited to get to work on the game. I was familiar with the game mechanics and strategies, so I could focus on the Xbox Live stuff without having to learn the game as well. In addition, whenever I had to test certain things, I got to play matches. It’s always nice to enjoy playing a game while you work on it.

Xbox One

The mobile and Steam versions of the game were written in Flash for the AIR platform, and Pipeworks re-wrote the game in Unity for the console versions. I was contracted to implement the Xbox One functionality.

This project went very smoothly. The other programmers had the game ported and running in Unity when I came onto the project and I just had to add support for the Xbox-specific features. As is the case with development on a new console, digging through the documentation and learning the idiosyncrasies of the platform take the bulk of your time. After going through the process though, it makes it much easier during subsequent projects.

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