Showing posts from May, 2011

Battle for Venga Islands Post Mortem...

So, the game has been out for a few days now, and I've some chance to reflect, I figured I'd write down some notes.

The Good

As a pretty mature technology, there are a lot of libraries that people have created for XNA game programming.  This is wonderful.  I love using stuff that other people have made and provided for free.  I'll even modify my own game design vision if I can find free tools that are cool enough to lead me in another direction.

When I first started playing around, I tried to implement Andy Shatz's lighting algorithm, with only moderate success.  I was never really able to able to get it working 100% (my own fault).  I soon after discovered the Krypton Lighting Engine, and immediately thought it was a better choice for my purposes.  It was simple enough to conceptualize, but powerful enough to perform well and do what I wanted.  My game isn't very light/shadow intensive, but it added some cool effects.

I also used the Mercury Particle Engine again, and…

Monsters Unleashed V.1 is... ummm, Unleashed

Monsters Unleashed V.1 is the first release in an exciting line of short monster supplements designed to update a host of 3.X monsters to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game ruleset. The monsters for this series have been selected by the patrons of the Monster Update Project that was launched by Purple Duck Games as our premier product of August 2010. All patrons of the Monster Update Project will receive all the Monsters Unleashed releases for free. If you are a patron and you have not received your copy, please check your email preferences at this site and contact me at
The first Monsters Unleashed features updated statistics for the barrow wight, crystalline horror, devil dog, dragonnel, kech. All have been updated to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game ruleset by Stefen Styrsky and Mark Gedak and illustrated by Michael Scotta. Multiple counters for each creature are also included.
Pathfinder and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Paizo Publishing, L…

Time Lapse

One of the big bummers about the XBLIG platform is that trial games can't join network sessions.

The real selling point of Battle for Venga Islands is its online map, and you don't really get a taste of that when you download the demo.

I don't have a good way to doing time lapses, unfortunately, but I set up my camera on a tripod and took a picture every couple of minutes, to give some sense of what happens in the game.  It's totally budged, but I hope the idea gets across.

Tech feature: Scripting upgrade

For a couple of months now I have, on and off, worked on some basic tech aspects for the engine. Everytime I was done with one of these I thought it was among the hardest things I would do for the new engine, yet the next feature as always proved more challenging. Terrain geometry was harder to implement than sun shadows, terrain texturing harder than geometry, and so on.

Implementing the script system is no different. It is easily the hardest thing I have done so far for our new engine - HPL 3. It has had this "perfect"sort of challenge: Difficult problems to solve, much basic knowledge to wrap your head around and awfully boring and monotonous parts. I really hope this marks the end of this trend of increasing difficulty, as another proportionally large step might make my brain to melt and my fingers to crack. At least it can wait for a lil while...

Enough complaining. Now that the scripting is pretty much implemented (some engine stuff still needs to be added an…

Battle for Venga Islands 1.1

Working on the 1.1 update.

Difficulty ratings are decreased.  Surrounded regions behind enemy lines will still be very difficult, but border regions should be easier.Ocean regions act as friendly neighbors.  This is a pretty big change, and means that there should be a lot more opportunity to start new attacks behind enemy lines.Data files are now tamper-resistant (I hesitate to say "proof").  Hopefully this should make it harder to hack the leaderboard.Health balls will drop slightly more frequently.Players can now change teams (one time only!) I think the first two will make a big improvement to the game.  It was really difficult to imagine how the game world would play out, and I didn't foresee it getting as locked up as it has.  So I'm anxious to get these changes out asap.


Well, it was only a matter of time.

I really have no idea about the file system on the Xbox 360.  However, I do know that you can save files to a USB drive, and then take that USB drive and plug it into a PC.  So it's probably reasonable to think that someone would have access to saved game data.  When creating the game, I never really cared about protecting the data.  I figured that if the game actually was popular enough that someone wanted to hack it, I'd consider that a success in its own right.

I save a file called "MyCapturedRegionCount.sav".  It's four bytes (one integer) long.  I'll give you a million dollars if you can figure out what data is stored in that file.

Someone apparently already figured it out and edited the file, and now we have a new surprise leader on the Hall of Champions!  Previous high score was 550 or something.  New high score?  OVER 19,000!  So much for subtlety.

Since discovering this, I've gone through all kind of emotions.


The XBLIG marketplace is broken

The Gathering

On the morning of May 10, we all gathered for the very first time. Unlike what many had prophesied, this did not bring about the end of the world. No, this Tuesday morning turned out to be quite benevolent. The six of us met at Malmö train station right next to the statue of the knotted gun, which incidentally did no longer exist. “Good,” said Thomas, “would have been too easy to find if we were able to follow our directions.”
Thomas and Jens are the founders of Frictional Games. They make an interesting and effective pair. Thomas is a force of nature hauling us off to adventure, while Jens is the more reserved type who dryly states that we’re going the wrong way. Together they manage to keep us moving on the right track. I had already met them both before and along with Marcus and Luis, who I had met on the trip to Seattle, there was only one man left. Marc turned out to be a cheerful man with subtle gestures. His eyebrows bounced as a silent hello. “I guess we are all here.”
The Gang
That …

Day 1 Thoughts...

The game has been up for over 24 hours, and it appears to be working as designed.  I'm very excited.

I didn't anticipate two things.

The first thing is how difficult it would be to press into enemy territory, once battle lines are established.  I knew I wanted to have a range of difficulty levels, and make it easier to attack regions where you own some of the neighbors.  But I didn't realize that the difficulty level would still be Challenging, Difficult, or even Heroic/Legendary.  I also didn't realize how difficult it would be to try to re-capture an island if it's entirely owned by the other team.

The other thing I didn't realize was how addictive the game would be for some people.  I was astounded to see some players capturing hundreds of regions on the first day.  The high score list shows players up over 200 and 300 captures.  Pretty impressive.

I'm not allowed to submit a patch to the game for a week, but I'm considering the following:

1)  Reduce diff…


The map is filling up fast!

I'm a little concerned about how things will work once all the regions are taken.  Obviously I knew that was going to happen, but I just hope there are enough regions that aren't all Heroic and Legendary to fight over.  I was able to singlehandedly take some Heroic regions, so it's possible, and with a teammate, it should be even easier.

It's been a crazy day.

The Battle for Venga Islands has begun!

When I checked on the status of my Peer Review this morning, it said it was ready to publish!

All thoughts of timing the market, waiting for summer vacation, and so forth went right out the window.  I decided to try the ol' "Monday morning 8am release."  I published at around 8am, and the game was available to play by about 10am or 10:30am.

I sent out a slew of emails to some reviewers saying "try my game!", and then sat back and watched.

I have a little "Online" indicator that is a debug tool to tell when data is being transferred to another client.  I was able to watch that light up, and look around the map and see that some new regions were captured.  I also have a "most regions captured" high score list, and I started seeing names pop up on that.  IT'S WORKING!

After an hour or so, some people have gotten online, captured a region or two, and left.  But one or two players are systematically capturing strategic regions, trying to surround…

Inspiration should be obvious on this one...

One of the my complaints about summoning spells is the rigidity of the summon monster and summon nature’s ally lists. I understand the argument that if you open it up to all the monsters the spells become far too versatile. So I’m proposing a solution where we selectively open up the lists via an imprint sphere.
IMPRINT SPHERE Aura faint divination; CL 5th Slot none; Price 250 gp; Weight – lbs. [Description] This fragile sphere is colored red and black (for arcane casters) and green and brown (for divine casters). The wielder throws the imprint sphere at its intended target with a ranged touch attack. If the sphere hits, it breaks and knowledge of how to summon that creature is imparted to the wielder if it meets the proper requirements. Arcane casters can only imprint animals, magical beasts and outsiders. Divine casters can only imprint animals, magical beasts, outsiders [elemental] and plants. The wielder can only imprint creatures that have the same challenge rating or lower than creatur…

Venga Island Predictions...

BfVI is making its way through Peer Review.  It has 5 or 6 passes (out of 8 needed, I think?), which has gotten me thinking about release day.

The Powers That Be added a new feature to the XBLIG system, which is that developers can now choose their own release date.  In the previous system, games that passed Peer Review would automatically go to the Marketplace.  Now, they go to a holding area until the developer actually clicks the "Release" button, and they appear on the Marketplace within 24 hours or so of that.

This allows for you do build up some buzz before the game is released, and perhaps also time your release to a coveted Friday release day.  It's a double edged sword, though, because if everyone did a Friday release, you'd get shoved down the "New Releases" list pretty quickly.  So it's a big meta-game.

I don't know when I'll release it.  I'm thinking on a Monday or Tuesday in an attempt to maximize time on the New Release list, but …

Khurasan releases the Mekanoids!

Here is a little something that snuck on by me while I was grinding away on the 15mm Crusader.

Jon over at Khurasan released the 15mm scale Mekanoids. I had the pleasure to design the Dictator and Hatchet gunship. You can see details of the release posted on TMP and purchase them here.

These kits have been a long time coming and I am very happy to see them in production.

Battle for Venga Islands

After Bad Golf, I took a month or so off of game programming, but then I got a bit of an inspiration.

I read about Spyn Doctor's high score sharing component. This is a bit of code that replicates the idea of a central, shared scoreboard for a game. So, pretend you have a Space Invaders game. It's a single player game, and you play to see how high a score you can get. Wouldn't it be fun to see other people's scores? This component allows for that.

What it does it open network connections while you're playing the game, and it looks for other people playing your game that that exact same time. When it finds someone, it takes your high score table, and their high score table, and merges the two together. So now your high score table has aggregated scores from two people. This process repeats, always looking for other players, and keeps sharing and sharing and sharing as much as possible. And when you share, not only do you share your own high scores, but all th…

We are hiring: Programmer wanted!

Frictional Games is now looking for a talented programmer to join the company!

You will be working for a small team with a big focus on finding new and innovating solutions. We want you who are not afraid to explore uncharted territory and constantly learn new things. Self-discipline and independence are also important traits as all work will be done from home.

Some the things you will work with include:
3D math, rendering, shaders and everything else related.Console development (most likely Xbox 360).Hardware implementations (support for motion controls, etc).All coding is in C++, so great skills in that is imperative. You should also be living in Sweden or a time-zone nearby. If you are fit in other areas we are of course prepared to be flexible.

If interested send CV to: jobs [at] frictionalgames [dot] com

What we are most interested in seeing is evidence, in form of things you have done, that you are qualified. Having interesting works to show off can make up for any gaps in knowledge.

Bad Golf

In September of 2010, I started working on "Bad Golf".

I'd been playing a lot of "Stick Golf" for the iPad, and figured I'd more or less rip off the concept. The idea of a 2D physics golf game isn't anything new, harkening all the way back to gorilla.bas and Scorched Earth, so I didn't feel too bad about it.

Bad Golf was intended to be a multiplayer golf/fighting game. The players would play golf on a 2D side-view course, but between shots, they could fight each other and slow down the other players from reaching their ball.

Once I got the main golf game going, I saw that I was going to have a problem. I wanted to have courses that had "islands in the sky", or other kinds of landscapes and layouts that wouldn't necessarily be readily accessible by a player running around. Would they have jetpacks? Or grappling hooks? Or could they climb vertical walls? Pretty quickly, I nixed the whole fighting aspect, and just went with a straight…

In the Beginning

I've been a gamer for about as long as I can remember.

My family got an Apple ][+ when I was around 6 years old. I still remember that the two games that came with it were "Castle Wolfenstein" and "RobotWar". The former got me into gaming, and the latter probably kicked me off as a programmer.

As an adult, I still play games, but also tend to swing back and forth between that and actually trying to make games. I've started dozens of projects, but I usually get to the point where I say to myself "Who is actually going to play this? Maybe my friends will humor me, but is it really worth all this effort?"

The along came XNA and the Creators Club.

I'm a professional C# programmer by day, so XNA wasn't too difficult to learn. And after so many failed projects, I'd already learned a lot of lessons on my own.

I've said it before on the forums, but I'm still totally shocked that Microsoft gives us access to all the tools needed, as wel…

printf("Hello, world");

So, I figured with my second game coming out, I might as well start an official game development blog. More soon.

Finding videogame's true voice

The main gist of this post is that we are not using the full narrative capability of video games. I believe we fail to take into account certain aspects that lie at the core of making artistic creations powerful and thus miss out on crucial strengths of the video game medium. To get to the core of these strengths, I will first have a look at other media (specifically film and literature), and then explore what lessons that can be applied to video games. What I end up with is a way of thinking that use basic elements of the film and literature experience, yet is quite different from these.

It is very easy to look at other form of media, see what they do well, and then try and copy this. I think this is a big problem for video games. Whenever a game focusing on a narrative-oriented experience is made, it is instantly compared to other media and judged according to their strengths. For instance it is very common praise to call video games cinematic, or to concentrate critique…