Community Garden Alpha Release

Community Garden is getting an Alpha release. This is an early build of the game that you can sign up for by going to the Community Garden site and signing up. My goal is to get people in world testing both the social and simulation aspects of the game. I’m hoping that by getting people interested in a virtual reality game running on Improbable’s SpatialOS, Improbable will be interested in supporting VR once again.

Blog Post: https://www.communitygardenvr.com/blog/2017/9/3/cbrh8l5w2ggso2secl3p0uzbp5ntcy

My Personal Status Working on MetaWorld

Last year, I began the journey to create MetaWorld. Being one of the first developers to use SpatialOS and being the first using it for virtual reality was a huge challenge. Documentation was sparse and Improbable was tied up growing their company. After a 3-4 months we had something to show to the world. The response was good, people who tried MetaWorld really connected with the world.

Unfortunately, after the press showing, I ran into a number of issues with SpatialOS due to required version upgrades and bugs with SpatialOS itself. Improbable was busy with other things so they were unable to help. I slowly worked through some of the problems but progress was slow. I started to feel that making a massive VR experience wasn’t going to be possible. At our current trajectory it would just take too long.

I still wanted to create something that allowed people to be able to visit a living world together from around the globe. To get there we would need more support from Improbable and a much bigger team. Funding efforts weren’t going well because investors wanted to see more before investing. The time required for one developer/game designer and a designer to create what we need would just take too long, we needed more help which costs money. This became a contention point between me and my business partner. Eventually I just didn’t see a future in continuing the way we were. I decided to stop working on MetaWorld and focus on a new title called Community Garden. Community Garden would start small to prove the viability of building persistent VR worlds in SpatialOS.

I was surprised when I found out my partner had started an IndieGoGo fund. To avoid confusion, I wanted to make it clear that I’m not currently working on MetaWorld and I don’t know how my partner plans to deliver on the promise of the fund. If you plan on donating to the IndieGoGo fund, please note that none of the work I produced for the MetaWorld you see in videos like the one above is what will be delivered.

Wordsum Is Now Completely Free

ue to Soomla no longer supporting their plugin for IAP I decided to make the original Wordsum free with no IAP and no Ads. I thought this would be better then spending my time trying to find a new IAP system for a now 2 year old game. I also just don’t have the time since I’m only one person. Another plus is that I could now port the game to Windows, Linux and Mac. opefully more people get to play and enjoy the game now.

https://itch.io/embed/57923?linkback=true

Having some fun with retro and government contracting

I’ve worked for a number of companies over the years as a programmer. My time at government contractor was particularly interesting. It was like working in a different parallel universe where everything looked the same but was strange. Unlike the commercial sector, we didn’t worry much about deadlines or being first to market with an idea. Our struggles revolved around protecting the funding for our contracts. We had fought against bad Project Managers that would mismanage team resources. We fought to keep bad programmers from ruining code. At the end of the day, there was the threat of the government swooping in to take away our funding. No funding meant no job.

We joked that all of this sounded like a old video game. Something like Missile Command for the Atari 2600. The evils of the world trying to destroy our project while the lowly employee fought to defend it.

It sounded like a good idea but my skills as a video game developer were lacking and Unity hadn’t become the giant it is today for indies. Fast forward 10+ years and I decided why not try to see what I can do in a week. I busted out my notebook and sketched a rough idea of what I envisioned.

 Design notes for game. This was my first time really trying to make pixel art so I tried to keep it simple. I also kept track of issue discovered during play testing.
Design notes for game. This was my first time really trying to make pixel art so I tried to keep it simple. I also kept track of issue discovered during play testing.

I faced some interested challenges along the way but after a week, I had something that was pretty fun.

 Final screenshot of Project Defender. Bad Programmers and the Gov weren't originally in the game but I added them to solve issues that came up during play testing.
Final screenshot of Project Defender. Bad Programmers and the Gov weren’t originally in the game but I added them to solve issues that came up during play testing.

I really enjoyed taking a break from working on big projects to make this game. It was very helpful showing me some holes in my game design knowledge. Give the game a try and let me know what you think.

https://itch.io/embed/119937

Spatial 9 on VR

I’ve been using SpatialOS for quite some time now and there have been some ups and downs along the way. Major changes to the API have required me to rethink how I develop with the technology. The latest version Spatial 9 was no different. This version had some of the biggest changes yet.

After taking the time to learn the new version, I was pleasantly surprised by all the improvements that were made. The team at Improbable really has done a great job. 

To celebrate getting Spatial 9 working in VR, I wanted to share the first rough screenshot of my friend hanging out and waving to me in the Community Garden I’m building. Unfortunately the plants we had growing in here died due to lack of watering…

Wordsum Blitz is out!

It’s finally time to for you all to play Wordsum Blitz. I’m really proud of how this game turned out so please check it out and let me know what you think. Love it or hate it, I always appreciate feedback.

Wordsum Blitz Coming Out Finally! November 6th to be exact.

Making Wordsum Blitz has been a very long journey considering the small size of the game. I really wanted to make something special based on the original idea of Wordsum. Along with the artistic help of my friend Jennifer Reyes aka InkByJeng, we managed to create a beautiful and fun game. I’m actually pretty terrible at playing the game so my top score is around 30,000 or so. Tweet me @pixelshotgames and let me know how awesome your score is.

Pro Tip: Just in case people are wondering, you tap the white panel at the top to pause the game. 

Remembering what it means to be indie

I’ve been creating games independently now for more than a year. It hasn’t been easy to do everything myself but it has been rewarding. Somewhere along the way I feel like I lost track of why I became indie. I even started to regret making games in the first place. I’m not sure if this post will amount to anything more than me rambling but I feel reflecting on my past might help myself as well as others remember why we all chose to do this in the first place. 

After finishing my first game Wordsum, I wasn’t sure what was next for me. The game didn’t take off like I had hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of people who played my game was more than I could have originally thought possible. Even better was the people that played the game seemed to really enjoy it. But even with this, I was baffled that it took me over a year to get 1,000 downloads. The game also didn’t make much money (I found I do like to eat on occasion). I was spending all my time figuring out how to maximize the IAP for my game. What had I become?

 Original Wordsum screenshots
Original Wordsum screenshots

When I look back, it made sense why the game didn’t become the next Crossy Roads or Monument Valley. It didn’t look or sounds unique so it didn’t standout from the crowd. Where did the game lose it’s identity? It started during early development of the game when I got caught up in what would sell well and what would attract people to download the game. In summary:

  • I made the game cartoonish and flashy instead of beautiful and unique.
  • I made it Free to Play instead of believing people would buy the game.
  • I changed the core structure of the game to make it more of a value proposition.

The game I set out to make became a watered down version of the original. After the release, I became obsessed with marketing and IAP. I was miserable. The whole point of this change in my life was to make games I was proud of. I had quit my full time programming job to do it (I still contract to support myself). Yes, I can be proud this game exists and that it’s fun but there are too many what ifs.

Over the next year, I’ve done a few other things. I made a VR game for the Leap Motion Game Jam, In Space, No One Can Hear You Dance. I started other games like Donut for the Gods and my current focus, MetaWorld. In the back of my mind I never felt like Wordsum was done. Little by little I began recreating the game as I originally envisioned. A fun, fast and beautiful word game that took the spirit of a game by Shintaro Sato, Blocksum, and shook it up with words.

 Screenshot of Blocksum the inspiration for Wordsum
Screenshot of Blocksum the inspiration for Wordsum

I asked an artist who happened to be my friend to help with the art. Make it her own. I refined the gameplay to the core mechanics and improved the ‘feel’ of the game. Most important of all, I took my time and I didn’t compromise my vision. This new game Wordsum Blitz, was something I wouldn’t say what if to once it’s released. It’s the game I wanted to make.

 The new and improved Wordsum Blitz
The new and improved Wordsum Blitz

I hope people do buy the game and enjoy it just like I would. I want them to look at it like I’ve looked back at Blocksum all these years and say “that was a really fun game”. In the end, that’s all the really matters to me. If you want see the change for yourself, download Wordsum for free for iOS or Android and check out Wordsum Blitz when it is release on iOS App Store on November 6, 2016. 

It’s Been Awhile

My posts have become infrequent but I haven’t given up on game dev. Too many things going on so blogging was put on hold. To get me back in the habit I decided to at least provide an update on what’s been going on.

MetaWorld

After completing In Space, No One Can Hear You Dance, I started working on a much bigger, more ambitious project. MetaWorld is an open world VR experience where players can explore a huge world with others. This project has been super challenging for many reasons. The first being I’m the only developer. This is made even harder by the fact that VR is so new that I often need to rewrite entire systems when something doesn’t work. On top of that, being an early adopter of SpatialOS has presented many challenges. The Improbable has been working hard to create better documentation and a more stable API but the journey has tested my resolve. Also, building on top of SpatialOS requires a much different approach then commonly found in game development. The results though have been great. Creating something new that hasn’t really been done before is very satisfying. An awesome moment for me was talking to Rachel Webb from GamesIndustry.biz. She really captured why this project is so special.

There is more to come for MetaWorld as well as more challenges but nothing great is every easy.

Wordsum

Wordsum reached a big milestone with 1,000 downloads. I never honestly thought I would make a game that this many people played. I still want more downloads but I’m also very happy with this number. Being my first complete game, Wordsum is special to me so I don’t see myself letting it die.

Wordsum Blitz

This game has been a long time coming. The original Wordsum opted for a level based design to give the player a sense of progress. Originally, I wanted to make Wordsum a score based game that never ended much like Tetris. You simply just try to get the best score and compete against friends. Instead of adding this to Wordsum, I wanted to make a new game that was lighter, without ads, without IAP, with better art and that was straight to the point. Over the past year, I’ve slowly made updates and changes but only recently has it been looking like a finished game. The last little bit that I had to overcome was performance. With that finally conquered you can expect Wordsum Blitz very soon.

Donut For The Gods

Oh this poor game. Unfortunately Donut for the Gods has received the least of my attention. It’s not abandoned though. Once Wordsum Blitz is released I will begin the slow struggle make progress. The gods will get their donuts!

Wordsum Blitz, Full Steam Ahead

After finishing Wordsum I took a trip into the work of VR with In Space, No One Can Hear You Dance. During this detour, I never quite stopped playing around with the design of Wordsum. The game was fun but I felt like I had strayed away from the main point of the game. I removed everything but the core gameplay and made it score based. The result was a game that was even more addicting with endless replay value. Wordsum Blitz was born. 

With the gameplay fixed I turned my attention to the art. The art for the original Wordsum was fine but it wasn’t original and lacked something. Lucky for me, I know a talented artist. Jennifer Reyes joined the team (ok a bit of an over statement since it was just me) and crafted this beautiful mockup.

This is just a mock up but I have already started integrating this into the game. I will post more updates once there is a working demo.