Category: Game Dev

presskit()

I looked into the handy presskit() installer by Rami at Vlambeer. Very cool. I got a press page set up for WaggSoft and a project page for Squishy Bugs. The WaggSoft site, as a whole, needs a lot of work. I’ll be fixing it up more and more as Squishy Bugs gets closer to version 1.0.

Also, if you missed it, Squishy Bugs now has a high scores page. For now, everyone’s scores are displayed there. Any score with the name “SquishyBugs” associated with it belongs to someone who wasn’t logged into their account when the score was submitted. In the future, the global high scores page will only display paid users’ scores on it. That’ll be a one time $0.99 fee which will get me closer to being able to make game development a full time job.

So get to playing. Make sure you have created a free account in game, and have logged in. See if you can beat the #1 spot!

Squishy Bugs Alpha 6

Squishy Bugs alpha 6 is now available on Google Play. Here’s the run down:

  • Upgraded graphics. You’re no longer stuck playing with a “retro” theme.
  • Added a theme selector on the Options page. Calling them “Night” and “Day”. Night is the original theme, and it’s easier on the eyes when playing at night.
  • Added a new column of tiles (6 more tiles total). Brings the total up to 48 tiles for even higher scores.
  • Added a “power down” and with it another points multiplier. The anchor power causes tiles to immediately start falling when struck, rather than be knocked around by the ball a little first. Every tile knocked down with the anchor gets an increased points multiplier for even higher scores.
  • Fixed ball and tile collisions so that the ball no longer sneaks between tiles.

More Colorful Squishy Bugs

Classic Squishy Bugs just doesn’t look appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I like the retro look. That’s why I styled it that way in the first place. But… it’s not eye-catching.

So next update is going to be a whole lot more colorful. Of course, if you’ve been following my tweets you’d already have an idea of what to expect.

So I’m testing the game. Working out any kinks. Adding things I may have missed. With any luck the next update will be out tonight. Alpha 6 coming soon.

Oh yeah, the graphics have been polished a little, too.

Squishy Bugs Alpha 5

Today Squishy Bugs received its 5th update. Here is what’s new:

  1. Fixed the “super fast falling tile” issue. Occasionally tiles, when knocked down, would fall too fast to squish. I suppose if you were really quick you could do it but they really shouldn’t have been falling that quick in the first place. The cause? The tile was being copied into the list of falling tiles too many times. I still have no idea why. So instead of 1 update per tick these tiles were getting 2 or 3 updates, causing them to zoom down the screen. Now the list at least checks if the tile is already present before it adds the tile.
  2. New power up: Knock out same-color groups of tiles. By default groups of tiles that both match the color and the icon of the initially-hit tile will all fall as a group. When this power up is active, all neighbouring tiles of the same color as the initially hit tile will all fall as a group.
  3. New power up: Knock out same-icon groups of tiles. When this power up is active, all tiles neighbouring tiles of the same icon as the initially hit tile will fall as a group.
  4. New power up: Split shot. When you toss a ball it travels a short distance and then splits into 2. I’m still playing with this power up. I don’t know if I want to leave it as a timed power up (currently set at 15 seconds, same as all the other power ups) or if I want to put a limit on the number of split shots that can be thrown.

All these power ups stack. So you can get a bouncy ball power up and a split shot power up and start tossing bouncing split shot projectiles. Or maybe get both same-icon and same-color power ups and potentially knock out half the board in a single shot.

I’m still balancing the score system. When the game is “done” I expect scores in the hundreds of thousands to be a normal thing. Presently my highest score is 30736, and it’s likely only because my dated phone (Motorola Milestone) chugs at times so the game sometimes plays in slow motion.

Looking for a higher score yourself? Here are some tips:

  • The more tiles falling at the same time, the more a squished tile is worth.
  • “Squishy Bugs” are worth 2x as many points as regular falling tiles.
  • Squish the squishy bugs before you squish the other tiles.

A squishy bug by itself is worth 226 points. A squishy bug falling with another tile is worth 2×226 for a total 452 points.

3 regular tiles falling at once, when you manage to squish each one, works out to 3×113 points + 2×113 points + 113 points for a total 678 points. However any tiles that fall off the bottom of the screen will lose just as many points. So don’t knock out more tiles than you can handle.

Next update should see at least 2 more power ups, and perhaps an update to the visual style of the game. I wanted a nice “retro” look but the charm seems to be lost on most people (my wife included). I’m considering how I can brighten up the game without confusing the action on the screen.

Have fun squishing bugs, and as always you can leave suggestions, comments, or bug reports on the WaggSoft forums.

Playing Favorites: Zombie Estate

I really like Zombie Estate on XBox Live Indie Games. It was the best 80 MS points I ever spent. (A close second is Cursed Loot, formerly called Epic Dungeon).

What Zombie Estate does right:

The theme. Zombies. An estate. You fending them off with guns. It’s just downright fun, and I’m not often a fan of twin stick shooters.

The controls. Not being a huge fan of twin stick shooters, I’m surprised I like Zombie Estate so much. I can only assume the controls are the same as any other twin stick shooter on the xbox so there’s something magical going on.

Options. When it comes to choosing your avatar and purchasing weapons, there are lots of options. Play as a ninja, a dog, a cat, a police man. It really doesn’t matter since it doesn’t affect the way the game plays, but it’s nice to have the choice. Weapons are a different story here as choice does matter. But there are plenty to choose from and there are enough to satisfy most any preference of play style. Further, the menu options are minimal. Basically, start the game and the option to turn music on or off.

Co-Op. I’ve never done it, but there’s an option to play with up to 3 of your friends cooperatively.

What it could do better:

More scenarios. The game offers only one level.

Unlimited mode. There are a finite number of waves. Once you’ve finished them all, the game is over. It would be nice to have the option to continue after the “Congratulations” screen.

Aspects I’d borrow from the game:

I want to remake the game (I started this a long time ago with Space Fight). I’d merge the turn-based play style of Blendo Games’ Flotilla with Zombie Estate. The co-op would be scrapped since I find I play the game solo most of the time anyway. You’d control 3 characters simultaneously (sometimes 4), playing turns in 5 second chunks.

How I’d make my own game:

The difficulty progression in Zombie Estate is pretty good, but it appears to be pre-determined. I’m unsure if the developer defined rules such as: For wave 3 we’ll include 30 medics and 170 generic zombies. Or perhaps there is some randomization going on before the level starts. I think what I’d like to try is having a “difficulty budget” and “average difficulty” for each level/wave. Each enemy would have their own “difficulty price”. So the level would “purchase” enemies with its “difficulty spending money”, with the aim of keeping enough enemies in the level to keep the current difficulty level as close to average as possible.

The “average difficulty” would increase the further into the game you got, having the level throw tougher scenarios at you. It could be that you’re faced with 5 very tough enemies, or perhaps 80 kinda-tough enemies.

Throw in a story line that takes you through different settings, and a friends list that allows you to import a friend’s character into your game (the 4th character in your team), and I think we’d have a pretty good game.

Edit (July 18, 2012)

I’ve managed to recruit a couple other very enthusiastic players to join me in a co-op game. Here are a few additional thoughts since playing co-op with 3 players.

It still takes forever to get through all the waves to the end of the game. Twice we’ve played to wave 25 and twice it got “too late” to continue playing. It has been a long time since I played that far in single player, but it seems to me that in co-op the game multiplies the number of enemies you encounter based on the number of people playing. A start to finish session takes a couple hours. Which brings me to my second point.

It really needs the ability to save! Getting to wave 25 and having to turn off the game really sucks. It’s going to be at least three times we’ll have had to start all over from the beginning just to “beat” the game.

And you really need something to do with your money after wave 20. I had $15000 on my character with nothing to do with it.

That being said, the game is still great. There’s little I would do to “fix” co-op. The addition of a save file, obviously, so we could play in 30-60 minute chunks. Perhaps you could purchase weapon upgrades (rate of fire, damage, etc) so that in the later stages of the game you have a reason to spend money. I’d say “keep the number of enemies the same as when playing single player” but that is dependent on the ability to purchase weapon upgrades.

It was still the best 80 Microsoft point purchase I’ve made on Xbox Live Indie Games, though.

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