I’m in the comedown phase of the Global Game Jam, Glasgow leg.
For those not lucky enough to have a lifestyle which allows them to work on their own projects full time, it’s easy to become cynical about developing games.
For this reason, the institution of ‘Game Jamming’ has never been more important. At a time where the soulless indifference of the ‘business’ of games is in the spotlight, we find a fortress where passionate developers get to be just that. Developers.
You only need to look at the number of entries with ‘Candy’ in their title to gauge just how strong the feeling is on this subject.
Candy Panda Saga
Anyway, the theme this year was a sentence…
“We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are”
A challenging theme, to say the very least!
We drew from this the notion of people who see themselves as the centre of their world, where everything else, no matter how beautiful, dangerous or emotionally challenging, was not really important. The kind of people who take ‘Selfies’.
The concept was inspired by the website ‘Selfies at Funerals‘, a website which showcases people taking photos of themselves at perhaps the most inappropriate of times (And which actually shut down when David Cameron and Obama took a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s Funeral). The gameplay is inspired by the photography minigame from ‘Dead Rising’, and the style by ‘Proteus’ and ‘Katamari’.
The world is ending, there is chaos all around, yet your objective is to take selfies. You get bonus points for taking them in front of rare and interesting things, and even more bonus points for variety (Everything has a category). So… Elvis Presley standing in front of a Stonehenge monument with a UFO flying overhead would score big!
The main character is a photorealistic image, but the background is deliberately simplistic and inconsistent. This was to symbolise that the character is the only ‘Real’ thing in their world. There is all this remarkable stuff happening all around them, yet half the view is obscured by their face.
The game got a great reaction, and everyone who played it left with a smile on their face. I’d definitely say this is the most fun I’ve ever had at a game jam. So… same time next year!
You can download and play the game from the ‘Global Game Jam’ page here : Link
(Can’t be bothered to read, link is at the bottom)
It’s been a long time since I did a Jam, so I decided to participate in Decembers Ludum Dare. First time I’ve ever taken part in Ludum Dare, and the first thing that struck me was the number of rules they have. Maximum of 48 hours, starting with a blank canvas, no using code or assets you’ve previously made, must work alone, no outsourcing… they all really help to level the playing field.
Anyway… the theme was “You only get one”, which after a few rounds of voting won by a huge margin. I came up with the idea of bonding charged particles together, but only one at a time. I called it “One Bond”
Initially, it started as a puzzle game where you would connect particles of opposite charges together in order to clear them from the screen, but over the course of the first day, as I added more features, I started to draw comparisons between the bonds and interactions of the particles in the game and other things. The movement of the planets, the wind, and people all over the world. So it became a game about ‘Particles and People’
The whole thing came together fairly easily after that. All I had to do was think of something that people do, and then try and analogise that in the game. For example, people often lead us to where we want to be could become a level about particles steering other particles to their correct partners.
The results for the competition came out today, and ‘One Bond’ came in 27th place of the 1,284 entries (14th place in the innovation category), which I’m very happy with indeed.
I’ve decided that I’d like to turn it into a full product that this will most likely be the next full release from Smiling Bag. I’ve already made a whole bunch of changes to it (Most notably that you can now have more than one bond, so I guess I need to think of a new name!). Look out on this blog or my own Twitter feed for more information in the near future, but until then you can play ‘One Bond’ in its current form online.
Play ‘One Bond’ : Right Here
Ducky fuzz is a simple game about juggling ducks on the ocean by controlling the waves, avoiding sea mines collecting as much bread as possible. Easy to play, difficult to master.
It’s a simple game, but it’s packed with content. Along the way there are many extra challenges to achieve. How many ducks can you juggle at once? Can you travel over 1000 nautical miles? Can you safely detonate 100 mines?
There are also puzzle stages, where you use a set number of ducks to clear a level, gaining a star rating depending on how well you did. And completing these challenges will unlock new duck costumes and special powers. You’ll see some surprising characters on your journey!
The game is an extension of a game I made a while back for the Experimental Gameplay Project called ‘Whistle Wave’, in which you controlled a wave by… well… whistling. Whilst the whistling thing didn’t really work, the idea of bouncing about on waves was appealing, so I wanted to go back to it.
The game is almost finished. Release date is currently ASAP, although begin the xmas period, there’s very little chance I will make an iOS launch before the 25th unless I rush it out, which I don’t want to do. Which means that Android people, you’ll probably get it a little sooner (before xmas), iOS people will need to wait a little longer. For more information, watch this blog, or follow us on Twitter.
Until then, here’s a trailer! And if anyone would like to cover this game and help out with promotion, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Just what is in the Smiling Bag?
I recently visited an exhibition of work by the artist Sister Corita Kent. She produces a fantastic body of work which was great to see up close, but it was her process that I was most interested in. As with most artists, their working process is the most important and interesting thing about them. I believe she was very conscious of this.
She came up with a list of rules , which can be summarised jovially as “there are no rules”, but there is a definite theme of finding, acknowledging, and respecting your references and role models running throughout them all. Particularly;
“GENERAL DUTIES OF A STUDENT:
PULL EVERYTHING OUT OF YOUR TEACHER.
PULL EVERYTHING OUT OF YOUR FELLOW STUDENTS.”
Although she was, in fact, a teacher, this could be taken as acknowledging any kind of influence in your life and work. And this doesn’t, nay shouldn’t, have to come from the same field that you’re working in. Independent film maker Jim Jarmusch has this to say on the matter;
“…Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows…”
So… learn to recognise your influences and references. Actively embrace them. Here are three people, among many, that I believe have influenced my own work over the years.
David Lynch – Film Director
I’ve been a fan of Lynch for as long as I can remember. From him, I take his uncensored, stream of consciousness approach to directing. For him, the creation of a movie isn’t a one way process, or two or three even. The direction of his films can be changed based on spotting a red car on the way to the office, or someone fluffing their lines on set, or even a dream he had the night before. He once famously integrated set dresser Frank Silva into the plot of Twin Peaks after he accidentally trapped himself on set!
Incidentally, the name ‘Smiling Bag’ is a Twin Peaks reference.
Bill Hicks – Comedian
From Bill hicks I take his fearlessness of failure. He knew the material he was producing would have a limited audience, and to this day he hasn’t yet found a particularly strong following in his home country. A lot of other comedians would have changed their act or given up all together. But he didn’t. And the discovery that, in some parts of the world, people ‘Got’ him, was enough for him to keep going.
Jim Henson – Puppeteer
This is my favourite picture of Jim and Kermit. Now, take a good look at this picture and tell me how many people are in it.
That’s right… two.
From Jim Henson I take his ability to create fun from very limited elements, in this case a piece of green cloth and two ping pong balls, by simply injecting a bit of his own personality into it. Jim was such a master at this, that he effectively gave his creations life! And while there were some large technical challenges in producing the Muppet Show, the funniest stuff, the real magic, was always in the performance and the dialogue.
So… what’s in the Smiling Bag?
Of course there are more, but those three are at the top of my list. And the first thing you might notice about them is that none of them are in the field of videogames. Of course, many in this field do influence my work, but I think too many people these days, especially in the games field, draw from influences which are close to what they’re making themselves. And while that does still create originality, it’s never as potent as when it comes from somewhere else entirely. To close, I’d like to borrow one more quote from Jean-Luc Godard, again via Mr. Jarmusch actually,
“Always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’”
So the answer to the question “What’s in the Smiling Bag” is ‘everything I’ve ever seen, listened to, read, experienced, done… it’s a bit of all the people I’ve mentioned in this blog, and many others. It’s me.’
What’s in yours?
I Am Level is out now on Android and iOS! Download Links are at the bottom of this post.
Platform : Android, iOS, Web
Client : None! This is an independent release.
My Role : Concept, design, art, programming
Additional Credits : Music by Malcolm Brown, Additional art by Sam Phillips, Malcolm Brown, Alex McGivern and Ross Kilgariff
Description : Flick, bounce, and roll your character through the bizarre yet stylish world of ‘I Am Level’ in this original mix of pinball and platform game. Tilt your device to get the ball rolling, then tap or hold anywhere on the screen to fire off pinball bumpers, springs, and doors. Clear the screens to unlock more of the map, and level up your player to unlock new costumes.
Tilt your device to get the ball rolling, then tap or hold anywhere on the screen to fire off pinball bumpers, springs, and doors. Clear the screens to unlock more of the map, and level up your player to unlock new costumes.
“Oh wow, this is wonderful” – PC Gamer
“I Am Level is one puzzle platformer that I had to force myself to put down. The beauty is in its visual simplicity and complexity.” – TouchArcade (4/5)
“I Am Level is the one game this month – probably this year – that completely restores my faith in iOS game developers.” – Arcade Life (9/10)
“I haven’t played a game like it before” – CalmDownTom (4.5/5)
“I Am Level is extremely good fun and has bags of charm in its retro aesthetics” – Retro Spirit Games (8.5/10)
“I Am Level has this wonderful charm that will keep you challenged and intrigued for hours.” – JayIsGames
“An addictive wee way to spend a few short minutes on the toilet” – square-go (4/5)
Where to get it…
Android Version : Google Play Store
iOS Version : App Store
I am Level is nearly finished! With any luck, the game will be released some time in September 2013, but first, here’s a launch trailer!
The game will be FREE upon launch for 1 day for every 25 plays it gets before the 6th of September, 2013. So please give it a watch, and share it as much as you can.
Some time on the 6th Sep, I will tally up all the views, and announce the result. And look out for the game on Android and iOS shortly after that.
Platform : Android
Client : Proper Games
My Role : Programming, additional design
Description : Enter the Temple of Tiles and use all your strategy and cunning to defeat your opponents!
Embark on a journey to master the ancient board game of Deshi, the “mental martial art”. Overcome your teacher’s challenges and ascend to the top of the temple to face Master Renshu. Here you will learn the tactics of foresight and the arts of magic to ensure your victories. Play against friends to battle for rank supremacy, and show them who’s the true master of tile tactics!
The first player removes a numbered tile from the board. The number shown on the tile is added to their score. Their opponent must then take a tile from the same ROW or COLUMN as the first player’s tile. Play proceeds until either player can make no more moves, at which point the player with the highest score wins. As the journey unfolds, more kinds of tiles and rules are introduced to increase your tactical options.
• Over 25 challenging levels to beat
• Earn stars and advance through the temple
• Networked multiplayer mode – so you’ll always have new opponents!
• Local ‘hotseat’ multiplayer lets you play against a friend using one device
• Add up to 5 special powers to gain an edge on your opponents
• Enter Zen-mode to double your rewards
• Stunning visuals and an original soundtrack!
Link : Google Play Store