Bright future, anyone?

Graffiti by banksy

Graffiti by banksy

When I was a kid, older people always said something like “their generation is the future” about me – about us. I’m 28 now, and I keep thinking about my daughter exactly the same. Their generation is the future.

I look around and I see people stroking their phones. Drinking. Being dumb beyond belief. Made by the same defective template. At some point in time we stopped being bright future and turned into dull present. We’ve achieved nothing. And now we lay the responsibility to be the future on kids. Our job is to earn money, their job is to be the future. They’ll do it fine.

We repeat – like repeating stuff makes it true – they are the future. We repeat it until we stop understanding the meaning of those words. We just know – they ARE. For some reason we dare to believe that they will do the job that we have screwed up.

How can we expect good future if we failed to deliver decent present? Where will it come from? We cannot teach them anything good. We have fucked it all up.

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SLIDE: Alpha funding on Desura and pricing philosophy.

So, finally (mostly for us) we’re ready to release SLIDE for alpha-funding, on Desura. This will happen on april 25, 2014. Hooray!

In this very first Desura build you will find at least 15 levels, which should be enough content to keep you playing for 2 hours. I’m sure you are well aware that this is a playable alpha, which means that there will be lots of stuff missing. But we made sure that the game is stable and there are no progress-blocking bugs. If there are – you can skip the level, but this feature won’t last long – we are planning to get rid of it shortly.
Also, do not be surprised to play without sounds and interface (you do not need the latter)

You might have noticed that we claim to have versions for PC, Mac and Linux, but only windows version is currently available. Two other versions will be added shortly.

Anyway, pricing. Without any doubt purchasing a half-made game is a huge risk for you. Our pricing takes that into account. As we will add more content to the game the price of the game will gradually rise. The earlier you buy it – the more you save, potentially.

So, the game is divided into 3 chapter, 25 levels each. As we are working on the first chapter and SLIDE costs $2.99. The plan is to add $1 to the price tag every time we complete a chapter. And $1 after the round of polishing. Those numbers are not set in stone, but that’s the plan.

Needless to say, no matter when you decide to purchase SLIDE you will constantly get new builds and eventually a complete game.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you like SLIDE. Have fun!

Desura Digital Distribution

Greenlight_button_small  indiedb

SLIDE – Greenlight and IndieDB

 So, finally, we are on Steam. Well, not on STEAM Steam… We’ve submitted SLIDE on Steam Greenlight, like 20 hours ago.

Now, everyone says that Steam is something different, and it is. Before that, only couple of people have seen our game. In less than 1 day, almost 2000 people has seen our game. Or at least the page of our game. That is a lot, and it’s just the first day. And what’s more important, there are people who like it. Frankly, this is the most excited I’ve been for last several years. On the downside, instead of working on the game I’m constantly refreshing game’s page to see the numbers rise.

Upvotes, as heart-warming as they are, are not the only one thing we got from submitting to greenlight – actual, real players send us their feedback. And it is useful in 2 ways:

1) it is highly motivating. I mean it – just one person saying something like “I kinda like it” means the world to me, and makes me wanna make SLIDE better in every aspect there possibly is.

2) there is stuff I’m blind to, just because I see it every day. New players have fresh eyes, they do not know that “it’s just for now and will be better in such and such ways” – they just see flaws and report them. ANd it is really good! Of course, there is the matter of filtering the feedback, but having it is definitely going to benefit the game.

Of course, not everyone like the game – and I knew that’s the way things are. But still, everything has “the other side”. And the hardcore 2d platformer is not supposed to be universally loved, but on the emotional level I’m a bit sad that some people vote “not interested”. I know that it’s the way it should be, and if I were not bothered by “downvotes” I guess I would by bothered by the fact that I’m not bothered… 

Anyway, we have also submitted SLIDE on IndieDB – those of you who do not know, it’s like the main hub of indie games, linked to a digital game store Desura, which is the platform we hope to have SLIDE on, when it is ready for sales.

Anyway, if you are interested in hardcore 2d platformers – take a look at the playable demo:

If you like the gameplay, here’s our Greenlight page, where you can vote for us (thanks): http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=231718917

Greenlight_button_small  indiedb

The paradox of a correct jerk

Here’s the thing.

Not that long ago I started to build awareness about my game on couple gamedev forums. But just saying “look, the game” seems not productive, so I decided to engage in various conversations, to get others to know me, and from time to time mention my game. I have participated and witnessed several arguments and a very weird cognitive conflict happened. But here’s a quick intro in what I think is relative to the case.

There is this halo effect. Yes this is the one I mention it every other post =). Basically it means that if I like (dislike) on trait of a person/thing/encounter I tend to attribute that liking (disliking) to the other traits of said person/thing/event. For example if I learn that some politician cheated his wife, I tend to think he’s a bad person in general and an awful politician in particular, which might not be the case at all.

Also, even if I know about some sort of illusion or bias – like optical or cognitive, it is still close to impossible to see the real thing, not the illusion. Now, I can sometimes detect the halo effect, but I cannot control my feelings.

So, what’s the conflict I’m talking about? It is not uncommon to see 2 people engaged in an argument. And sometimes person A says something I completely disagree with, but he does that in a polite manner which makes me respect him. Person B on the other hand says something I wholeheartedly believe in but he does that in a disrespectful manner.

If I knew nothing about the halo effect I might not think about it, my feelings would instinctively figure out whom I disliked more and told me whom to support and I’d be writing some stuff I might not actually believe in (it’s a speculation by the way).

But here’s what happens in my mind – I really do want to support B in a conversation. But his manners make me wanna punch him, so (probably) as a way to punish him I feel inclined to support party A. But I disagree with party A and I do not want to support him. I do try to remain objective, but knowing just a bit about brain quirks makes me question the existence of objectivity. Anyway, I try to remain calm and polite, not to pick sides, base my arguments on proven data and say what I DO think. But that annoying feeling bugs me like hell, once detected I cannot shake it off, as it buzzzzzzzzzzzes in my brain.

Of course, I could give up forums, which is not actually an option – I need to promote my game (and myself ^__^) and there is no one to do it for me.

Anyway, what’s your take on this matter? Have it ever happened to you?

Let me know here, in comments, or via twitter @ArseniyShved (yep, I hope you start/keep on following me).

‘kay, bye! =)

First round of playtesting

Today was fun. I put together 5 levels, waited for a lunch break and ambushed several co-workers. I watched them closely as they suffered through the finger-breaking challenges.

The purpose of this test was to determine if my core feature – the controls system – has the right to exist or it should be revised.

The first victim was discouraging. He had lots of problems as he could not see the basic logic behind what defines the jump. And even if he did try to do the right thing he failed miserably. It was a torture, not only for his fingers and ego, but for my eyes and confidence as a game designer. Not really surprising, considering that he’s not into platformers, but still demoralizing.

He said that it was kinda fun, but I know, for him it was not.

finger-knots

The metaphorical effect of my game on people.
Pic source: foundshit.com 

I approached my second victim with bad expectation, but there was still hope – I knew he’s a masochistic Super Meat Boy-and-like fan. Right away he started to experiment muttering “oh, I see” every 2 seconds. In just 15 seconds he got more understanding of the game than my first prey. He was good. Not in a way “he does stuff the way I expect him to do” but rather in a “I have a plan and I will stick to it and I will improve my skill” way. Yes, he chose actions I’d never say are obvious (and they are like 5 times tougher to pull off than the “optimal route” I planned), but he never got discouraged (despite or because of swearing A LOT). He obviously had fun during those 5 levels, and I had fun watching him suffer \ play.

When he was done with what I had to throw at him I showed him “the supposed way to pass some challenges” and we shared a laugh. “I love to come up with absurd solutions and succeed with them”, he said not without pride.

The good news is that as soon as he grasped the principle the controls work, he became pretty excited about it and totally made my day.

The third playtest was not planned, but my colleague saw us playing and got curious (poor fella), so I decided to collect more data. Well, he did weird. He struggled with the most basic moves, but easily completed several rather hard chains of moves. The internal logic of the controls was a mystery for quite some time and by the 3rd level I thought he would quit. But at the level 4 there was some sort of “eureka” moment and I could feel the enjoyment (and understanding) level rise. In terms of positive (for game, not my ego) feedback he was the most helpful one – I spotted several places to improve level design and to better convey the basic controls principle (and yes, I want players to experiment and find stuff “on their own” rather than to feed them info with a tutorial).

Slide 2014-01-21 21-23-21-65 png

This violet thingie says “experiment”, but noone seems to understand / care / try to do so. On a side note – on this picture you can see like 60% of the level and it really takes practice to complete it.

Oh, by the way, this last dude is no stranger to platformers, but not as hardcore as Super Meat Boy. So that means I’m pretty much in the place I wanted to be, as I was making a game inspired by Team Meat’s SMB.

Anyway, my worst fear that the core feature would not be understood, to some degree, was confirmed. Good news is that the problem seems to be not in the system itself, but in the fact that I do poor job at giving players right hints. As long as I find the way to better communicate it, I should be fine.

Also, what I’ve found out is that people choose anything but what expected them to. Of course I knew it would be so, but I could not imagine in what ways this phenomenon would translate to an SMB-like platformer. And I did design most of the levels in a way that allow some deviations, I just thought they were smaller.

Another fun observation – even if there is an explicit directive to experiment, people tend to think of one plan and stick with it even if it obviously does not work until it starts to work.

Also, it seems to have little to no use to watch someone else play. That third tester observed the second one for some time, but he made lots of the same mistakes (and lots of his own) regardless. Just a fun observation. =)

This game is supposed to be difficult. I want players to jump right at the edge of the cliff. And I expect them to time their actions. It is not simple and it was usually the reason my testers died. However not all deaths were resulted in their inability to do so – obviously I made several mistakes in level design. It’s a good thing I now know them now and I will fix them ASAP (probably today).

Although the game IS supposed to be challenging and I expect players to die like 10 times on each level, I looks like that ATM I’ve made it a bit too tough.

Slide 2014-01-21 21-16-09-54 png

“WTF am I supposed to do?!?!?!? and HOW did I just do it?!?!?” seems like the most natural reaction in this situation. FYU you can’t just run under those spikes and you cant just jump over that small spike-hill…

So what’s next?

Fix the levels, think of a better way to explain the controls without actual explaining, and test again. Sadly I won’t be able to use the same people (unless I test new levels), so I’ll have to find someone else, like you. But I feel wrong showing only 5 levels, so it might take some time. Also there are some things I am uncomfortable with (like the fact that the game still has no name), so they need to be fixed.

On a side note, if you wonder how big\small  one level is, think of SMB. They are approximately the same.

Anyway, if you like challenging platformers you might consider warming up your fingers and prepping extra keyboard.

 

Tweet, share, comment. You now how it works =)

BG2MVG11: Update

Hi there.

So, last time I mentioned that we were undergoing transition to 3D. Indeed we played around with this concept, and found out that

  • It requires way to much effort
  • It looks COOL
  • It is harder to navigate which requires challenges to be altered and simplified
  • It looks really COOL

The pros and cons were close, obviously, but with pain in my heart I have to say that we have rejected three-dimensionality and returned to 2d.

The “story” was altered but that deserves its own post (one that I promise to write since July).

Anyway, we’ve had some progress. I mean that we’ve finally implemented proper progression and death. Well, not death, but death, death, death, DEATH. Because it happens a lot.

What we need to do now is:

  • Graphics
  • A bit of polish
  • A name for this game

And we’ll be ready to upload playable demo in the net!

So stay tuned and we’ll see what happens next =)