Monday, 31 October 2011

Purple Mountain - Level 1 is uploaded.

I have just finished uploading the final version of Purple Mountain I: Temple of the Locust Lord to Paizo's site. I'll put it up at Rpgnow in a day or so after I finish some non-Purple Duck work. It has been a long haul getting this product out but I am very happy with the results and cannot wait to tear into level two. Hopefully, it will be cleared by Paizo staff and available for purchase tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

PETM


People for the Ethical Treatment of 'Monsters'  (PETM)

PETM focuses its attention on many areas where so called 'monsters' suffer the most intensely at the hands of the sentient species of this land.  Our goals are:
- to free the minions/denizens of the many villains that are used as human shields and fodder in battle;
- to stop the unfair and cruel imprisonment of all magical familiars;
- to put an end to the sacrifice of countless beings to uncaring and capricious Gods;
- and to once and for all end the outright slaughter of free/wild monsters in their natural habitats(dungeon/Lairs) by so called 'Heroes'
PETM works through public education leaflets, protest campaigns at local dungeons/lairs, animal rescue from hidden villain lairs and special events like hot dog sales and other non-meat events.
People who support monster rights believe that monsters deserve consideration of their best interests regardless of whether they have claws or teeth, spray poison in your eyes or encase you in gelatinous proteins for digestion.

What is the difference between 'monster rights' and 'monster welfare'?
Monster welfare advocates accept that monsters have interests but allow those interests to be traded away  as long as the sentient species benefits justify the sacrifice, ie protection of the treasure, fodder in the war between good and evil or simply in the dungeon room you are trying to get through.  Supporters of monsters rights believe that monsters, like all races of this land, have interests that cannot be sacrificed or traded away to benefit others.

What about plants?
Many believe that vegetative plants that inhabit our dungeons and underworlds cannot feel pain, but if an organism can scream, run away or spray poisonous pollen at you they must also have rights as monsters.

Monsters don't reason, don't understand rights and don't respect our rights, so why should we apply our ideas of morality to them?
A monster's ability to understand and adhere to our rules is irrelevant.  Monsters cannot always choose to change their behaviours - Gelatinous Cubes know only digestion, Otyugh's like poop, Owlbears don't know why they are part Owl and part Bear - the sentient beings of our land have the intelligence and ability to choose to not hurt those at greatest risk.

It's impossible to avoid killing monsters when spelunking a long forgotten dungeon; if you're still causing monster suffering in doing traditional hero work, what's the point?
Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, but freedom of thought is not the same thing as freedom of action.  You are free to believe that monsters are there to be killed simple to gain experience points, clear your path to the next treasure or destroyed simply because they are trying to kill you - however we do not have the right to actually do such things except that you may be much more heavily armed than they are.
PETM argues that the 'hero' occupational group is outdated and should be abolished.  Society must progress beyond random bands of heavily armed persons laying waste to monsters.  By setting up structured societies of government by the people and removing the tyrants and warlords society will progress into a new age.

What about the Monster Liberation Front (MLF) and the damage they reportly cause?
Sentient species throughout history have felt the need to break the law to fight injustice.  The MLF is the name adopted by those survivors  who act illegally on behalf of monster rights to save lives while endangering their own.  MLF members take the next step and take up arms to defend those who can already defend themselves or who are being overwhelmed  by overbearing heroes whether they be Faye, aberration,  magical beast or dragon.

Most monsters used in dungeons or by villainous overlords were bred for that purpose, so what's wrong with using them?
Being bred for a certain purpose does not preclude the ability of a monster to feel pain and fear.  If you prick an aberration does he not bleed?

Monsters and lower animals in the service of good magical users don't suffer that much because they've never known anything else, right?
Wrong!  Monsters who have been domesticated for the servitude of masters as familiars, or 'animal companions',  are prevented from acting on their basic instinctual behaviours which causes tremendous suffering. Confined monsters suffer from intense boredom - some so severely that it can lead to mutilation of self or others.

If monster exploitation were wrong, wouldn't it be illegal?
Lawfulness is no guarantee of morality, just ask the victims of Hobgoblin tribes! 

Monsters are not as intelligent or as advanced as sentient species, so why can't we use them as we wish?
Superior intelligence does not entitle one species to abuse another species.  Elves do not have the right to subjugate the less intelligent Dwarves and Humans.  Rather, we - I mean they, work with the lesser species to make a better land or ignore them outright to preserve their cultural purity.

Get involved:
Monsters depend on us for our compassion, our voice and our action.  Monsters may someday be able to organize a rebellion or demand better treatment, but until then we are here to speak up for them. 

Keep in touch by watching for our flyers and promotional materials on your community bill boards

Free/steal familiars wherever you find them and set them free in the wild.

Take time to come out and march, protest wherever heroes are slaughtering monsters, don't be afraid to laydown your life for a monster.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

IGF

Hello IGF friends...

I know, I know... I have no business entering my little game in your contest, but my boy Andy said it might have a chance. So what the heck, it's only $95.

My name is Adam Spragg. I'm a life-long gamer, and have been trying my hand at developing games for quite a while now. It wasn't until I discovered the Xbox Live Indie Game platform that I was actually motivated to complete and publish a game. This latest one is my third (after "Bad Golf" and "Battle for Venga Islands"). When I'm not developing games, I'm a dad, husband, and software developer.

In case you don't already know, Hidden in Plain Sight is a local-multiplayer-only game where players are trying to win by accomplishing goals, but also given the means to eliminate each other from the game. This puts the player in an immediate state of conflict: should I try to touch all the statues to win, or by doing so, does that give me away as a player character?

In all game modes, there are a bunch of NPC characters that mostly just wander around randomly. So, kind of like SpyParty, a big part of the game is trying to blend in and look like a computer controlled character.

It's the first game I've made that I think is ACTUALLY FUN, and the first that my friends (playtesters) genuinely seem to enjoy. So I'm pretty excited to get it out there.

Look for it to be published in late November. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Trailer

I made a new trailer video...



Also, since the last time I wrote, Ninja Party has been updated sort of significantly.

The real problem with Ninja Party was that it was impossible to determine who the players were. Players could easily just wander around and look exactly like the NPCs. Basically, you just needed to wait until someone got impatient and start taking swings at everyone, and it just turned into a duel.

So I needed to add something that the players would react to, but that the NPCs would ignore.

I added statues. You can win the game if you touch all five statues. This gives the players something to do, and something to guide their behavior, and therefore something to give themselves away.

The addition, I think, is a good one. It allows for multiple levels of strategy. You could just go for the statues straight away, but that would probably be pretty obvious. You could camp a statue, but you'd have to be careful, or you'd look suspicious.

The statues also have the benefit of blocking the view and giving some cover, so you can hide behind them and spring out at people. That's kinda neat.

I uploaded an official version to the IGF, to the tune of $95 or something. It's almost certainly money down the drain, but who knows. Just waiting on the finish cover art from my boy Eryn, and I'll be good to go. (See, I told you waiting on art would have a silver lining! If I wasn't waiting, I wouldn't have improved the Ninja Party gameplay!)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Some changes to the production miniatures.

Looking around the web, the most common suggestions, complaints, what have you, is that the figure appears top heavy. Rightfully so, this is caused by the legs not being true to scale and the shoulders being too wide.

The arms and shoulders need to clear the chest projections so that you can pose the figure, I can however make some changes to the arms and changes to the legs so that the figure has a much more “correct” form.

After polling my project supporters, there was a strong consensus that we use the more “correctly” scaled miniature for the final production models.

I would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to all the supporters that have graciously given to make this project a reality.

Although we have met and exceeded to project goal, I would like to encourage you to take part in the project. The cost to manufacture the prototypes and make the molds has still not been fully paid for. The project will need to reach roughly $7300.00 to be in the black and completely self-supporting.

If you have been on the fence, I hope you view the new more correctly scaled miniatures with favor and help fully fund the project.
 
Thank you for looking and for your support!

I hope you enjoy the changes.
All the best!
Mark-


 
New plastic minis!

 
 
Metal minis





Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Eisenkern Trooper Kickstarter Project and actual prototypes!

Well folks, I need your help. If you enjoy my models and would like to see this product line launch, please head on over to Kickstarter and add your support to the project.
If you're not familiar with the Kickstarter model, the way it works is you receive a reward for an accompanying pledge in support of my project. The more you pledge the better the rewards and the greater contribution you will make to this and future projects. Your positive participation will help a small independent company to grow and thrive and you gain the satisfaction of knowing you made this happen.

And what you have been waiting for....Here are a few shots of the actual prototypes for the Kriegsmarine and Sturmtruppen soldiers.

NEW PLASTIC STORMTROOPERS
New plastic figures proportion change and scale change (above) nothing went untouched for the new plastic line, the size scale and proportions were refined on every component!







These will be produced as lead free pewter miniatures.




Project rewards you say? You betcha!





A closer look at some of the rewards.



Although they did not make it into the Kickstater project... here is a tease of the accessory packs that will be available separately.




Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Thoughts on Limbo

A while ago I played through Limbo for the first time. I thought it was quite an interesting experience for many reasons and been thinking for it on and off. Now that I have collected most of my thoughts on the game I thought it was time to write a little post about it.

Starting off, I thought the game had really nice visuals that really added to the mood. Small things, like the change in light level and tilt of the camera heightened the mood substantially. Another thing I really liked was the variety of activities and lack of puzzle repetition. Too many games just try and extend play time as long as possible, and it is nice to see games going in the other direction. All this has been said before though and is not what this post will be about. Instead I want to discuss some other things I realized when playing the game.


Limited Interaction
I think the biggest take-away from Limbo is how you do not have to give the player lots of actions in order to make a fresh and interesting experience. The basic actions in Limbo are move, jump, climb and grab. These are then used in a mixture of ways, constantly keeping the experience fresh by putting the variety in the world instead of the controller. This can be seen in other games like Shadow of the Colossus (but then to a lesser degree), and I think it really helps to heighten the player's feel of presence in the game. It only takes the player the first few minutes of the game to familiarize with the controls and the rest of the game can be spent on building up immersion, instead of constantly learning and remembering controls.

It is so often that games become about the mastery of the controls and I think that makes it so much harder to become one with the game's world. The faster the flow of interaction from player to game can become intuitive, the better. We do not want players to think of what buttons to press and sticks to pull. Instead we want players to directly express their wishes from mind to game, unaware of any intermediate hardware.


Puzzles and Limits
As I played Limbo I realized that most (if not all) interactions were directly added to the puzzles you have to solve. I felt that there could have been tons of extra elements to interact with in order to make the player feel more connected to the world.

But then I realized that the design of the game went against this. The puzzles in Limbo depend a lot on experimentation and thinking "out of the box". You have to try out every object in order to find a way to progress. If the game had had superfluous elements, then this would have made the experience so much harder. Players probably would have spent much time interacting with objects that were completely unrelated to the puzzle they were trying to solve, increasing the overall frustration and damaging the flow of progress.

This means that puzzles can be quite a hindrance if you want to make a living world. If the player's goal is to solve puzzles, then that forces you into make sure the rest of the experience supports this. And because of this having puzzles excludes a lot of things that could increase the player presence, emotional connection or just about anything that might work against the puzzle solving.

This is one reason why we will try to completely remove puzzles for our upcoming game (more on that in another post).


Trial and Error
I just have to mention the trial-and-error nature of Limbo as it is something that I have talked a lot about before and it is quite a prominent feature in the game. First of all, the "repeat and try again" mechanic that is used in almost every puzzles is something that ties into the general design of the game. It is quite clear that it takes the basic design from Another World but I link Limbo is a lot less frustrating.

What I found interesting is that the most annoying parts were not the puzzles where you died and had to restart, but where you missed some part of a sequence and had go back and try again. This mainly because the latter meant you had to redo a lot more and the deaths often had a sort of fun, morbid "gotcha!" mentality to them. Also when the world is reset and the game place you at a certain point you get a greater sense of focus on and a hint that you are on the right track. Just failing to do something always give you that nagging feeling that you might not have set up everything in the proper way.

Still, dying or not, for every time I had to repeat a part of the game, it became less about being present in it's virtual world and and more about figuring out an algorithm. I felt a clear change in my state of mind after just one or two attempts at a section. I am probably a biased here, and thus not best of test subjects, so would be interesting to hear what others felt.

A final note on this: Some people have argued that the cruel death mechanic heightened the tension in the game. However, I think the most important part of creating tension in Limbo was that you never know what to expect next. I never felt any increased tension after having failed once or twice, but instead my greatest tension was from anticipation. Coming closer to some strange branches or a weird contraption, my mind conjured up all sort of imagery of what could happen next. I think this sort of build-up is a lot more powerful, than simply adding cheap engagement from the knowledge that you had to restart (which rarely worked on me anyways).


Cut scenes
The last part I want to discuss are the cut-scenes, or more precisely the lack there of. It is still so common in games that you remove control from the players and then pan/zoom/guide the camera to make sure that the player watches some event (e.g. a creature emerging).

Limbo does not do this, and it makes the events that you see so much more compelling. By using the game's space and character movement as a means of pacing, the events are very well directed, but without ever removing control from the player. I especially liked the villagers that you see running about and thought it was a shame that they were not utilized more. I would have really liked for a more coherent narrative to have come out of these encounters.


End Notes
Despite being mainly a game about solving puzzles, I think Limbo gives a lot of hints on atmosphere and narrative in games, both by things that it does good and things that it fails at. I also wish that we could see games with this kind of polish and interesting art direction, that had main focused on creating immersion, atmosphere and a compelling narrative. As seen when investigating games like Limbo, all the tools for creating truly expressive experiences already exists, it is just a matter of putting them to go use!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Hidden in Plain Sight -- DONE

After a few nights of just playing around and testing and tinkering and tweaking, I'm ready to stand back from the canvas and say that I've painted my last stroke on this masterpiece of a game.


The ONLY thing left is to wait for Eryn to finish up the title/loading screen image for me.  As I've said, I'm not in any hurry to release, and this extra time has given me some opportunity to do some extra polishing and stuff.  So that's all good.


I made a YouTube video introducing the game.  It's a subtle game, so just showing silent gameplay footage wouldn't really sell it, I don't think.  The video ended up being 10 minutes long, but I think it does a decent job explaining each of the game modes, and showing why it's a fun game.  I was hoping to get some playtesters together tonight and record some actual game footage, but plans fell through.  Maybe next weekend.


I emailed out some websites with a link to the video.  I have no idea how to do marketing, and the very idea of it kind of makes my skin crawl, but I also want people to know about my game.  I try to convince myself that I'm just making games for myself, and it's neat if people download it, but of course in my secret heart I want the game to go viral and get thousands and thousands of sales.


Anyhoo, here's the video, if you haven't seen it already:




Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Hidden in Plain Sight progress...

Getting closer!  Am I done?

In the last week or so, I’ve upgraded the menus so that they somewhat match the tiles theme that Eryn introduced in his title artwork.  I also added in the Trial mode stuff (two game modes free with trial, the rest you get with purchase), and a credits screen.  I’m pretty much done, I think.




Eryn emailed me today and said that he has some work and a timeline at his job, so he won’t be able to do more work on the title screen for a little while.  This is kind of a bummer, as I’m eager to get this to market, but also a blessing in disguise.  There absolutely no reason I need to rush anything, and having some extra time for playtesting and tweaking is always a good thing.  So I can put on my QA hat and look for bugs.  I could also try to do some marketing, but I don’t really know how to do that.

I did spam out some emails to gaming sites with a link to a pre-release version of the game.  I think one or two might have downloaded it, but I haven’t heard anything back.

One of the biggest steps I still need to take is put together a good demo video.  And I need the help of friends for that.  So hopefully I can rally a couple people this weekend and record that.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Forest of Gora


The Forest of Gora sits between the kingdoms of Illaya and Grismor and serves as their border. Trade routes circle either side of the far stretching forest. Outposts can even be seen within sight of the forest, but none are ever directly next to it. Both kingdoms have learned nothing built near Gora will last the season without being ransacked or razed by those living in it.
Both nations have tried on numerous occasions through the generations to lay claim to the land, either by force or in cooperation. Ill prepared for the guerrilla tactics of those that reside in it, they were held back every time. When the native occupants took out their building hostility on the private trade caravans that passed near their borders a quick, unofficial truce was quickly made with the impending threat of economic collapse a lack of trade would cause.

Ecology
Much of the flora and fauna of Gora is what one would expect from a temperate forest. A mix of broadleaf and evergreens provide a balance of waxing and waning life in fall and winter while summer and spring are refreshing and bright.
All manner of animals and plants can be found. Wolves, foxes, rabbits, deer, bears, rodents, and various birds are among the most prolific. Wild berries and other edible plants can be found nearly everywhere. Elves, fae, and centaur are among the few intelligent beings that call Gora home, and they constantly take measures to insure it remains that way.
Rarely, some mutated plant, and possibly an animal that's been feeding on it exclusively, is crossed. When a meteorite fell into the forest generations ago smaller chunks peppered the landscape, forever changing where they hit in more subtle ways than the main lump of ore.

Sites of Interest
Despite how expansive the Forest of Gora is few settlements can be found along it's borders or within it. Most attribute this to the 'ghosts of the forest' while others claim elves and other denizens harry any who try to build too close.
Elves, fae, centaurs, and other denizens of the forest have small communities spread throughout the forest. Most are concentrated around the Heart of Gora, where a massive meteorite easily the size of a wagon fell to the land. So long ago did this happen that even the elves have forgotten the true story. Moving and mining the ore have proven all but impossible
The Heart of Gora has become the site of festivals and seen as an icon of all the denizens of the forest. It sits in the center of a crater with a single, frail looking oak growing through the center of it. The bark, wood, and leaves of this tree look like lead replicas but have the strength of any forged metal; making them quite coveted. Elves and fae go to great lengths to confuse would-be discoverers and lead them through the forest without taking them close to the  Heart.