Featured

My Games and Levels

planet-lander

Planet Lander

Planet Lander is currently a work in progress.  It is built in GameMaker and GML, but all design, code, art and sound are solely developed by me.

Large cave section

SKYRIM QUEST – THE HUSTLERS OF WHITERUN

A quest designed for Elder Scrolls – Skyrim, within its own custom editor.

PORTAL – SINGLE PLAYER LEVEL

Designed in Valve’s Hammer editor for the Source engine

The level in its primitive state

UNREAL TOURNAMENT 3 – MULTIPLAYER LEVEL

Designed within a limited time frame as part of a level design competition

Text Adventure Flowcharts

I’ve been attempting a text adventure, with multiple branching paths and permadeath. It’s essentially meant to be a text adventure version of Hitman, with multiple ways to assassinate the target, the use of disguises in order to progress in certain areas, and of course multiple ways of getting your brains blown out.

Due to the multiple approaches, a flowchart was the best way to go about designing the scenarios before I put anything down in code. This soon turned in to a reasonably large flowchart  for a small game, which you can see below.

agent-74-flowchart

Adding an inventory system to this would have increased the possibilities in this quite a lot, so I decided to leave it out.  I also decided to leave out the possibility of going down another completely branching path once you’d started one, as this would also increase the number of scenarios dramatically.  Fortunately, the nature of text adventures means that they allow the designer ultimate restriction on what the player can and can’t do, and at the risk of going insane by writing a scenario for a combination of every single disguise and every single inventory object, I’m keeping this fairly short for now.  In the future I might implement a system that gives the player more freedom but we’ll see.  I’ll post the final game up soon once it’s done.

Learning curves

An alpha version (if I could call it that) of my little game Planet Lander has now been put out and it’s generated some response among my friends.  At present there are only five levels, with some others coming, as I update and figure out an efficient level design system.  The most common response to the game seems to be its difficulty.  

Most people are saying it’s bonkers hard.

Here’s some of the Facebook comments I received:

facebook-1 facebook-3 facebook-2 facebook-5facebook-6 facebook-7

While the comments were both complimentary and helpful (although I have to remind myself that these are my friends commenting), this is an issue.  Difficulty is of course a problem that affects no other popular medium today, movies, books, TV and theatre do not require their audiences to be ‘good’ at watching or reading.  Games have thrived, or died, on the successful implementation of good learning curves.  World of Warcraft is a classic example of a game that managed to garner massive broad appeal, partly through its use of a gradual and extremely well balanced difficulty curve that kept both new and experienced players interested. To be able to hold the attention of not only those who were already interested in games, but also those who are new to the medium, and to then still hold that attention throughout the character lifespan of an MMORPG is nothing short of miraculous.  EVE Online on the other hand, while still popular, is fairly niche and this could be in part due to its steep learning curve.

eve-learning-curve
Classic learning curve for EVE Online

In the case of Planet Lander, there are two connected factors that have influenced responses from people playing the game.  The first is that as the sole developer I am constantly playing it.  Over time of course this makes me pretty damn good at it.  If, during that time,  I am still making design decisions and tweaking the movement and controls of the ship, and still adjusting the level design, I end up with something that feels balanced for me to play but not for anyone who’s never played it.  Secondly, the game would have benefited immensely from broad design testing.  By putting it in the hands of a broad spectrum of players I could have more quickly seen the flaws in its difficulty.  Fortunately, for a game such as Planet Lander, difficulty with controlling the ship is reasonably easy to fix.  Plus, as the game only has five levels, I simply need to add some more levels (which was originally planned anyway) and then shift the more difficult ones towards the end of the game.  I may however still adjust the exisiting ones after some more focussed design testing.  The responses I have had for the game have not come at too late a stage in its development, however I feel I should have done this a bit earlier with a prototype and before the implementation of the art assets rather than relying on my own sense of difficulty.

I am currently concentrating on a lot other tasks at the moment in my life, such as learning more about Unity and Unreal, so the process of fixing these changes to Planet Lander might be slower than they have been recently.  I also need to figure out an efficient level design system so that I can not only create levels quickly, but also readjust them quickly for balance and difficulty.

80 Days

80 Days is a game previously released on iOS and Android and now recently released on PC.  Taking inspiration from Jules Verne’s novel, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, the game pits you as Passepartout, the almost unwilling, yet loyal companion to Phileas Fogg on his globetrotting journey.  As Fogg’s valet, you must find the fastest and safest routes around the world, all while overcoming the various scrapes and obstacles on your journey through text-adventure style mechanics. Continue reading “80 Days”

New PC

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of 4K worlds

This was originally posted my other website: www.invertlook.com

I have a new PC and god damn is it good.  I’ve always had a penchant for good hardware, but this time I’ve clearly taken it one step further.  I’ve paired it with an Acer XB280HK 4K monitor so I’m now running everything at four times the resolution I used to.  Which is, quite frankly, insane. Continue reading “New PC”

Dune II

The Building of a Dynasty

You know that feeling, when you’re drawn in to a strategy game so much that you act like a maniacal despot.  A madman who believes he is actually there.  All of a sudden you’re babbling, spluttering at the screen and barking orders at essentially non-sentient entities made up of ones and zeroes.  You start talking to yourself, the first sign of madness apparently, or maybe the only way to be sure of intelligent conversation.  Ok, so maybe that’s just me.  But when it happens, that’s when I know I’ve found a great game, one where I feel a sense of real presence and agency in the world.  That moment of very personal madness when I first played Dune II in 1992 was when I knew it was great. Continue reading “Dune II”

Rome II

Novi omnis impetum , deliqui

This was originally posted on my other website: www.invertlook.com

Novi omnis impetum , deliqui

Which roughly translates to ‘I selected all, I charged, I failed’ and is just one of the many maxims I’ve had to learn playing real time strategy games since my first foray in to them in the early nineties.  And I say ‘roughly translates’ because, yes, I did use Google translate for that one, I’m not a Latin scholar I’m afraid.

We’ve progressed a bit in the last twenty years from the old C&C style of ‘how many mammoth tanks can I build in five minutes to chuck at the enemy’ and the Total War series was one of the pioneers that progressed the genre.  You see, you need to retain the mindset of balance while playing Rome II, both on the battlefield and in the halls of the senate.  You need to play the benevolent statesman, religious manipulator and ruthless dictator just as much as the military general if you’re to have any hope of conquering the world as you know it.  Appeasing your people is just as much, if not more important to securing military victories than fighting the battles themselves.  Let’s look at an example from early on in the campaign… Continue reading “Rome II”

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

This was originally posted on my other website: www.invertlook.com

J.R.R. Tolkien never liked the idea of his books making the transition to the world of screen.  You would hope then, that Peter Jackson’s trilogy would have dissuaded him from this line of thinking.  It breathed life in to an already well-loved set of books and fascinatingly detailed world through the entirely different medium of film.  Unfortunately Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.’s son, has apparently stated his disapproval of Jackson’s conversion of his father’s books stating “They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds.”  Tolkien’s estate also took issue with profits made from the films involving an $80 million legal battle.  It looks like we won’t be seeing any more of the great professor’s world on the big screen for at least a while yet. And so here we are, despite the criticism and legal battles, experiencing one of the inevitable conversions of Tolkien’s work to an interactive medium from the success of Jackson’s films.  Many have come before of course, some successful, some not so much.  And as a licence, there are always the usual suspicions of cash-in opportunities, conjuring the image of greedy-faced publishers, rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of well-meaning folk dumping £29.99 in to their bottomless purses to experience permanently hitting X on their controllers in the most mind numbing way, yet perfectly content as the whole affair is wrapped around their beloved world.  And yet there are always exceptions; Dune II, Goldeneye, and the recent Alien: Isolation to name but a few. Continue reading “Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor”

Meditative Gaming

This was originally posted on my other website: www.invertlook.com

With the slew of modern games mostly revolving around beating ten tonnes of shite out of something, someone or even each other, it’s refreshing to know that we do have a few alternatives.  The kind of games for those off-days where we feel like slipping in to a hypnotic coma and waking up to a repetition of colourful lights and custom music. Continue reading “Meditative Gaming”

An Ode to EVE

Spreadsheet fun

This was originally posted on my other website: www.invertlook.com

A few weeks back a friend of mine discovered that I dabble in EVE Online.  I’m reluctant to use the word ‘play’ in this regard and would much rather use ‘dabble’.  It seems these days that anyone using the word ‘play’ in regards to an MMO such as EVE or World of Warcraft is instantly stereotyped as some fat, balding loner who immerses themselves in the same virtual world 16 hours a day, pissing in to a nappy and outsourcing their character to someone in China while they sleep so they can technically play TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY.  Unfortunately, all of the above does actually apply for some people but it’s pretty much the same as saying “What?! You drink beer?!  You must be an alcoholic!!”  So on discovering that I ‘dabble’ in EVE Online he said “You know that game is just a spreadsheet right?”  Well, that’s one way of putting it I suppose, but then it depends on which aspects of EVE you appreciate.  It really depends on your perception of the game.  The ‘spreadsheet’ side doesn’t particularly interest me at all.  It’s rather what you do with those numbers and calculations that matters.  In fact, EVE is about something else for me; a lot of other things really.  Here’s what’s great about it. Continue reading “An Ode to EVE”