Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Added some simple UI elements

Added some simple UI elements for the security cameras today just to get a feel for the atmosphere.  Also the player now has a limited sprint.



Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A new concept for a Cooperative Survival Horror

Hi All,
We're just on the verge of starting to wind down our current horror game http://store.steampowered.com/app/342550/ and a couple of the team are starting to prototype our next game which will be a cooperative survival horror.

Think of it as a cross betweenFive Nights at Freddie's and Alien Isolation (Safe Haven).

Premise:
The premise of the game is there are two players, the Operator and the Runner, who are trying to escape a level.

The Operator is based inside a security room where she has a number of surveillance cameras at her disposal.

The Runner is in the level/maze itself who has objectives to accomplish, and is being stalked by a creature.

The Operator and Runner have to work closely together and communicate effectively for both to survive and escape together.

Initial Concepts
Using UNet, we currently have a really simple prototype going with objectives, the creature, and the 2 players.

It is possible currently to spawn more than 1 runner into the level - so we will be exploring that too.

Here's a shot of the prototype with a sci-fi template level.


Monday, 9 May 2016

Phantasmal Dev Log (Part 8)

It's been a couple of weeks now since the game has been fully launched in Steam.  It's such a weird experience.  It felt like all the activity and mad rush happened in the first 3 days and then just died away.

It felt like it was all over so quickly in comparison to the Early Access Launch.

A few really awesome fans have come out of the woodwork and have been really amazing.  Sales weren't spectacular, but they were really good considering the fact that we were total newbies when we began this journey.

I think at one point I set a fairly low bar mentally - I said that I would be happy if we made more money than we had spent.  We have at this point, even though it's not a spectacular amount.

The key fact is that the team is able to continue on working together - so the only direction is up!

I'm pretty confident that we can top our previous achievement this time around.  I think we have learned enough from Phantasmal.

The nice thing is that we have a base to start from now as well!

Above all else, we weren't financially dependent upon the game doing really well.  Even if we were to have earned zero, we would still be able to continue on.

One thing that has bugged me a lot during this journey is how little emphasis is put on slow growth of an indie studio business.  So much focus is placed on the success stories, so that all of us indies have this subconscious expectation that our first game has to be a mega-success.  I wish I had more stories around like mine that did ok, and were more grounded in reality.

I plan to write up a post mortem, so I hope that it will give others like myself a chance to see a more realistic starting point.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Phantasmal Dev Log (Part 7)

So cool the game is finally released.

It was pretty awesome, it even lasted a little while in the Popular New Release list, and also one of the feature panels for a while (probably a few hours only).

But hey I can't complain - it was my first crappy game and it got shown on Steam for a little bit :)


Release day was probably the most hectic - tons of key requests came through from the press.  I had to respond to a lot of forum activity.  These are the times  I wish I had a community manager - but unfortunately no one from the existing team had stepped forward, so I ended up having to do it.  I guess I knew the game/product the best anyway.

It was a pretty exhausting time for the next 2-3 days, but finally traffic peaked and started to die away.

Fortunately for me I had planned out the entire lead up to release day really well: every single task was in a Gantt chart and we had ticked everyone of them off like clockwork.  If nothing else I was pretty proud of the planning and execution.  I can take that plan away with me when I do this again next time.

I think truthfully this project was only ever a test.  We got what we wanted out of it: namely the education.  I learned so much via a trial by fire over the past couple of years.  I had been flailing around a lot, but now I feel like I could do this again - faster, better and more confidently.

I'm not the smartest, most technical, or most creative person around, but I am glad my work experience forced me to learn rapidly.

I will need to sit down at some point and write up a full post mortem.  This will be critical as I will want to encapsulate all of our mistakes so that we don't make them again.

I had written up a preliminary one in TIG Source:

https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=55375.0

So there we were - we had finished a game project all on our own.  Who would have thought? :)

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Phantasmal Dev Log (Part 6)

So luckily we found what the cause of the severe memory issues was last Friday.  It turns out that it was to do with the Astar Pathfinding package that we were using.  Honestly speaking it was my own fault:  we had hypothesised that increase the area of the grid graph, which is used to control the pathing for some of the creatures, wouldn't impact the performance of the game.

We naively theorized that next to the graphics, the information stored would be negligible without actually looking deeper into how it worked.

The dev lead decided to fix a major section of the sewer section, and that threw us.  The game started crashing to desktop horribly, and we thought it had something to do with the new sewer changes.  We rolled back the change but this didn't do anything.

We looked through the other things that had changed and realized that Astar was one of them.

I incrementally took everything out, and found that by decreasing the Astar area, that the game crashed less. Eventually I decreased the size of the grid graph so that it was back to the original size.  At that point the game NEVER crashed again.

We must have been operating on the brink of failure the whole time and had no idea whatsoever.

By the time I had figured it out, it had been a panic stricken 2 days where I was at the verge of giving up on the whole thing.

Fortunately that got sorted out and I could get back to marketing. A slow trickle of responses started coming back - people actually wanted to play our game!

That gave me a huge sense of relief after several days of silence.  Granted, most of them were low tier youtubers, but it was a start.  There were a couple of mid tier guys at 100k subs, and one guy who was 2M that responded, but we really needed 1 or 2 super high profile ones to give us that momentum for day one.

It was looking good, but we needed more. Fortunately the technical side was stabilized, and looking really good actually!  I had taken a 'break' this weekend to tweak and fix things which is what I enjoy most.  By the end of the weekend, I felt the game was actually pretty fun!  The polish was there too - I'd even addressed a lot of the little niggling remaining issues all by myself!

So from here on in, I will need to focus hardcore on marketing and PR.  It will still be a hard stretch to the finish line, but at least half the battle (i.e. the technical) is now resolved!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Phantasmal Dev Log (Part 5)

Well over the last week or so things seemed to have been coming together nicely - the marketing has been tracking along nicely, and bug-wise we had the game down to a manageable level.

The marketing will be a like huge roll of the dice as per last time - I have no idea who will respond if anyone at all.  Even the people we've spoken to before won't necessarily help us again.  I've always struggled to understand how to keep in touch with the press and streamers we've spoken to before.

To make matters worse, GDC just happened which basically took 95% of game reporters out of action.  They probably all have clogged inboxes right now.  Not having made it to GDC probably hurt us a bit - otherwise I could have met up with some of these guys.  I'm really disappointed that  I wasn't able to make it - I was let down pretty badly for some of the things I needed to get there too.

All the key people that I've really made an effort to engage with just haven't even responded either. Marketing and PR has always felt like door to door sales - it's massively demoralizing to be ignored by 99% of people you try to talk to.

On top of this one of the core team I'm relying on heavily has been removed from the equation due to personal issues.  There couldn't possibly be a worse time for this stuff to happen.

Fate is so cruel - just when I thought things were coming together, I get thrown a spiky curve ball.  We're not totally derailed yet, but it's a crippling blow.  Fortunately for us, I've planned everything right down to the last detail so we're not doing any last minute bullshit.  We would be in serious, serious shit if we weren't on schedule for the technical side right now.

My life right now honestly feels like the Apollo 13 programme.

We will get to the finish line, but I don't know in what state.  I will have something to show on 14 Apr - I'm far too much of a stubborn asshole to fail a commitment like this, but hell if life would throw me a bone right about now I'd be so thankful.

I just hope that 2 year's worth of work isn't going straight down the flusher at this point.