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The official blog of Froghaus.
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The team is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment. This whole long distance thing just doesn't work, let me tell you. When I get back to Minnesota (mid May) we'll be back in action. Until then, we're reworking our website, planning some more stuff, and thinking about life.
I'd like to take some time, however, to formally introduce us to the development community. I think that one of the main problems with independent, and general, game development is the lack of human connection between developers and everyone else in the world.
Froghaus is comprised of the remains of two now-defunct independent game developers. The first being Sparkle Game, and the former home of myself and Jin (artist). The second being ViraSoft and the former home of Matt (lead artist) and Sol (bearer of whips and realistic thinker).
Neither group rose to much prominence, and only Sparkle released a game. A Tetris knock-off that came about because we couldn't find a programmer capable of doing games we were really wanting to do. The game in question is Sound Block and can be downloaded from my website. Sparkle gained some notoriety with its outlandish claims of the development of a GBA RPG at the GBA launch window. Various small media noticed us and one of the IGN editors even acknowledged us. It was a tough go, the programmer bailed on us, and our musician went insane.
Not even kidding.
The nicest parts were meeting the guys I work with now, meeting with potential publishers and having them slam the doors in our faces, and receiving a nice e-mail from a higher up at NoE encouraging us to do our best. You can find many juvenile postings from me online in relation to Sparkle. Good reads, really.
From lofty ambitions of GBA RPGs to a Tetris Clone. Bad ass.
Anyway, it's been four years since that clone was released.
So, what exactly is Froghaus? Well, it depends on who you ask. You'll get my opinion here, but Matt, Jin, or Sol could tell you something entirely different.
In my eyes, Froghaus is a vital link for myself in maintaining a connection to my childhood. Inside of everyone there are packets of feelings tied to what we believe are the best moments in our lives. Our childhoods, our accomplishments, whatever floats your boat.
I love 16-bit era games. And I firmly believe that the most creative time period in the industry was between 1993-1998. Earthbound, as I'm happy to say, is my favorite game of all time. The RPGs of the SNES period are in my, and most of Froghaus', eyes unparalleled in today's environment.
For me, it is a dream come true to work on the kind of games that really made an impact on me. This doesn't mean that I never want to work on a 3D game or anything, but right now, we can only work with what we have.
We're trying to make games that touch people: games that help people come in contact with those spots in their brain that remember the best times of life. Games need to become more human. This doesn't mean better graphics. This doesn't mean more diversity in characters (this being a comment directed toward an article in the current EDGE). This means that games need to stop centering their worlds on nonsense, bloodshed, and testosterone. Once in a while, a game needs to have heart. It needs soul. It needs to have a core that says, "I can have my feelings hurt. I'm delicate, like you."
It's our goal to touch people. Our games won't be pretty. But that's part of the fun. They're unassuming, ugly chaps. You can sit down with them and not feel intimidated. You can feel free to feel more intelligent than them. You're prettier than them.
No glitz, no glamor. Just heart and soul.
A test screen of the WIP Asparagus. It is running and it is beautiful.
Taking a bit more grit than we'd hoped. Just wanted to post to say that we're still working on Asparagus. It's been rough. I'm living in New York at the moment, until June, and the guys are back home in Minnesota, so it's tough communicating/working over the distance, but we'll manage.
Currently, we can walk the characters around and interact a bit. I want to get the separate functions built and then start on the game true. I'll... post an in-development screen in... roughly 2 hours.
Give us a month and you'll be seeing some action from our front. I apologize for the lack of updates. I've been hyper busy with design, business, and such things on the Froghaus front and moving on my personal front.
Hope everyone is having a great new year so far.
So, things are slowly progressing. Mr. Chounard progresses on the second milestone and we discuss how/what to implement in scripting. We're using Lua to script, XML for data, and PhysicsFS for data holding.
The game is coming along well. We're extremely excited to show you what we've been working on. The ideas are solidifying. Everything is looking ... solid.
Matt is working on the final elemental GUI features as I type. Jin has weworked some of the movement animations. I'm going over the features I want in scripting while baking some chicken.
I hope it turns out well.
I've enlisted the help of a friend in order to develop a clearer documented picture of what it is we're aiming for with Asparagus, that way we have a better roadmap to our goal.
I've never been as good at writing things down as I should be, and have certainly paid the price enough times to where you'd think I'd have learned. But nope. Go figure.
So, the next step is to begin a detailed documentation process.
I've already gotten some notes together for the next project. Just ideas that have popped into my head. I try to keep things together in a tidy fashion so that I can retrieve them when I need them later.
In further news, the first programming milestone was completed. All of the required technologies are in place. Next, we need to begin the process of putting the pieces together, and this is where my friend will be helping me.
Soon we should have something cool to show.
Totally said "Shooting Fore" on accident. Should have been, "What We're Shooting For". However, I was running on 0 sleep after working a 92 hour workweek.
I picked up a second job in order to pay for contract work to be done for Asparagus. It's a bit tough, but to be honest, it's the best way to go. If you need to pay people, you might as well take a second job to do it, because that way it doesn't bite into your budget.
Anyway, as per the responses to Asparagus.
Thank you to everyone for the positive response. I alerted the art dudes, and they're flattered.
The art is not concept, it is all in-game art. However, many additions will be made to what you saw. Some interface pieces need to be added, interactive objects need to be added, and a few other bells and whistles will find their way in.
Thanks for the UI suggestions, I agree. We'll be working on this as we go in order to make sure the game is as good as it can be when we put it out.
And yes, to be compared to Earthbound certinaly makes my day. It's been my favorite since I played it. It's no secret within the team that we're trying to emulate the style of the Mother series while adding a bit of our own personality to it. It's a popular opinion in the group that the graphics of Earthbound really helped open the game up and give it a "down home" or "innocent" feel: the game made no presumptions. And that's what I enjoyed so much about it.
What is next for us, however? We're finishing base maps at the moment. I listed out for Matt how many maps we need in total, and he's been working with Jin on finishing them. Mr. Chounard is working on getting the program together and, when the scripting comes along, I will be working on putting the game into playable order.
Sprites are, for the most part, finished. The basic animations have been completed, and now we need to build the game and decide what other animations will be required for the rest of the story.
I think I can best describe the game now as a mix between the puzzle elements/gameplay of The Lost Vikings, the aesthetics of Earthbound, and certainly some elements of the Zelda series.
For instance, the game starts without a story. You enter a name and then ... bam! ... in the game. It's a direct homage of sorts to the original Zelda, which I feel got the whole idea of "adventure" correct from the get-go. You just get thrown into the game with no back story, no intro, nothing: you are truly alone. And I'd like players to be able to attack Asparagus with the same sort of mystery and wonder that they did the original Zelda.
In any case, it is Sunday, and I make dinner on Sundays, so I will do so.
Here's a rough concept of what we're going for. All actual game art. Not actual running.
Ahead on our way, eh?
Evening, folks. Or, morning. Or, afternoon. Depends on your location I imagine.
Speaking of which, what is the official cut-off between afternoon and evening? I've always been told 6PM. Eh, guess it isn't the end of the world if I don't know.
Things are coming along in a fashion as only witnessed in the movies. Well, not really, but they're certainly happening.
A programmer was found posthaste, and I do believe we're in luck to be working with the fantastic (and always pleasant smelling) Jesse Chounard. We're talking to another artist at the moment and may contract him to help us speed the process along.
Sadly, I've been shown again that I seriously haven't planned enough in the way of setting up a schedule, and it bothers me. I'm busy playing catch up now. This whole two jobs, school, and a company thing really breaks one down.
At least the Diet Pepsi is holding out.
Meanwhile, in a week, I'll show you what we've gotten for the graphical side of things. I'm fairly proud of it and excited to show you what Matt and Jin have done.
See you in a week or so.
No, I'm not implying that we're making a game for morons. But I am saying that I could use a book that just flat out says: here's your checklist of things to do.
Oh well, learn as you go. And nobody's been a better teacher to me than experience.
I've been working on a series of milestones for development and it really forces you to think a lot more about your game in detail. Sadly, this is yet another lesson learned in a short period of time. As much planning as we believe we've done on our game, we could always have done more. Next time will be better. Next time will be better.
We've made a few interesting design choices in Asparagus, including the creation of a "hub" within the game. This meaning, in order to better allocate our resources and focus on creating a better user experience, we cut out some travel across the island and have now decided to focus more on the micro (regions) versus the macro (island as a whole). This should allow us to really put a lot of time and effort into making some truly special locations.
Next Gen had an interesting article on game design, and I actually felt that he hit the point of games early on. There are, as he implies, two schools of thought in game development:
1) Those who think games are compelling because they are 'fun'
2) Those who think games are 'fun' because they are compelling.
I belong to the latter group. I play games because they interest me. Honestly, I don't really seek out ways to kill my time, as I have so precious little of it, so I don't go out seeking 'fun'. I have plenty of stuff to do right now. I guess this explains why I'd rather watch documentaries in television than sitcoms.
In any case, read the article. Well worth it. Hope everyone is having a top-notch weekend.
I've come to the conclusion that I'm really not interested in reading many game development books anymore. For the most part, they seem so entirely focused on systematic game design and the doom-and-gloom outlook for indie developers, that you can't help but get depressed when reading them.
I'm tired of negativity and pessimism. I'll go back to my business and marketing books, thanks.
I think one of the greatest weaknesses that indie developers face is their widescale neglect of the whole business aspect of ... business. Too many indie developers that I've talked to proudly tell you how they're in it for the love of games instead of trying to make a living. You know what? Screw that idea. We'd love to make a living doing this.
I was talking with Matt yesterday and I made a comment that I feel is hyper relevant to the industry at the moment. Art, on all levels, has never been restricted to one particular formula. And I think that the game industry needs to realize this. "Art" doesn't mean most realistic graphics or 50 hours of gameplay, "art" is a connection with your fellow man that hits a nerve and tells the viewer "Someone understands what you're feeling".
We're about ready to hire a programmer. If anyone is interested in programming a 2D adventure game, feel free to message me. The game must do the following:
Display 2D graphics in both full-screen or windowed environment; no anti-aliasing (GFX library to be determined by programmer... best if cross-platform).
Read/write database information over internet.
Read data from internet.
Use XML as scripting language (negotiable... can use other scripting language).
Play audio using OGG and WAV files (Open AL should be okay, I imagine).
UPDATE: Database usage boils down to username/password authentication, software registration, posting accomplishments, and downloading images.
The position is paid. $500 in ten payments of $50 at the completion of milestones.
25% of Froghaus profit made on game (post cost/publisher), provided programmer makes self available for bug fixes.
5% of profit from subsequent games made using technology developed for Asparagus.
A letter of recommendation will be written for you using Froghaus/publisher letterhead.
The game will be sold. Our marketing plan is solid and complete (for the time being). We cannot disclose it publicly as it kicks many levels of butt and has a lot of proprietary marketing techniques.
The end goal for the people on the team is to get jobs in the industry, so we're still gaining experience.
We're looking for a friend and ally: someone who wants all of the profits of independent game development, both in experience and finances.
For more info, send me a message.
Ladies and Gents, the emotionally stable and promisingly fantastic Jesse Chounard is in the house. Utterly fabulous. Hope you're doing alright, old bean.
My experience with programmers has been ... less than extraordinary in past attempts. So, this time around, we're designing the whole game (graphics, sound, maps, everything) up front and then either:
a) Handing the project over to a hire hand or
b) Programming it myself, which is a royal pain in the butt, as I'm not the hottest programmer on the market.
The fact of the matter is, finding quality team members is next to impossible, especially over the internet. Matt and Jin are both personal friends of mine who I've been able to analyze in person and come to know/understand. Finding people online is hard, trustworthy people even more difficult. But even more difficult than that is finding locals who share your passion.
I'd taken a shot at it using Torque, but honestly, in my relatively modest opinion, I wasn't impressed. Though the idea of multi-platform availability for our game is alluring, the chaos of Garage Games' "documentation" is just that: chaos. Especially when creating a product aimed at "non-programmers". I've been programming off and on for years and I had a wicked hard time getting anything working.
So, anyway, the technology being used for Asparagus will most likely be Mappy for maps, Tile Studio for sprites/tiles, Photoshop for some more tile work, Illustrator for other graphics, Allegro for graphics display, God-knows-what for audio, MySQL for net-related information, and Visual C++ Express Edition for compiling. Yee haw? Yee haw.
It will be a pain trying to program this bad boy, but someone has to do it, eh? And Lord knows the guys can't do it.
If I may rant for a bit, I just read something in The Game Producer's Handbook. The author, Dan Irish, made a comment about making games addicting. Okay, so he probably made it in innocence, but the fact of the matter is, I'm sick of designers/producers/hairy aunts and uncles talking about how games need to be addicting. Again, no beef with him, as he made the comment innocently, I believe.
But here's my deal. I've seen game addiction. It's the most disgusting thing since morbid obesity (which I overcame... obesity, not game addiction). I've seen it completely sap peoples' drive for life and send them into funk unimaginable.
Addiction is what you do with drugs, alcohol, or sex. Games are something you play: an entertainment platform. Just like books read for entertainment, movies, or whatever else, they're toys meant to kill some time and keep ourselves amused. Sure, some of them make some bold statements about life, love, and other mysteries (The Sims is a fantastic example of a game that went further), but it is utterly ridiculous for us to pretend that entertainment is anything but just that: entertainment.
The point when we feel we need to grab the player by the genitals of addiction is where we lose touch with the entertainment medium. I think that, despite my hate for ties between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, game developers can take notes from other forms of entertainment that truly understand what they're existing for.
I've never played a game to become addicted. I've never played a game because it was "fun"; in fact, the word "fun", tied to videogames has always kind of grossed me out. I've played games, watched movies, read books, and listened to music not because it is "fun", per se, but because they interest me. Everyone is simply entertaining themselves, looking for something interesting.
As far as I'm concerned, games don't need to be more addicting, they need to be more interesting. Games now are boring. Once in a while, something interesting comes along, like Katamari Damacy or Shadow of the Colossus. Games, for the most part, are designed for the minds of 15 year-old males, an audience with whom I share no common interest. It isn't fair that, as an adult, I am almost actively neglected in my gaming tastes, simply because 100% of my income isn't expendable.
Sure, a company needs to go where the money is, and I don't hold it against EA, Activision, Take2, etc., for their pandering to children, but where are the games for me? Where are the games made for adults who've read philosophy, discovered deeper meanings to religious influence in their life, gotten jobs, gone to college, or just plain ... live a real life?
I don't give a rat's buttocks about graphics. I want a quality game with a great story, intuitive gameplay, and doesn't require 20 hours of my precious/valuable time.
Guess that's why we have to make Asparagus.
The game should take 5 hours to complete, the interface (MUSE) is entirely mouse-driven for simplicity, the story ties together a lot of our philosophies on life/God/purpose/compassion/hope, and we're excited for it.
So... from addiction to Asparagus. I don't want Asparagus to addict you. I want it to interest you. I want it to teach you. I want it to give you some semblance of hope/peace in a dark world.
Thanks for the comments everyone. You all rock.
Wow, comments already. Fantastic!
In reference to the comment on Clouds... yes, I've heard of it. Now that I have BootCamp installed, I can play it on the Mac and intend to check it out.
I suppose I should introduce ourselves a little further. The team at Froghaus is comprised of Jesse (myself), Matt, and Jin. Every one of us has an appropriately Scandinavian last name for our perfectly Scandinavian enclave of ... Minnesota. We're based in St. Cloud, Matt and I attend St. Cloud State University.
Matt is the Lead Artist of the group, deciding a lot of the art direction and coming up with our art development pipeline. He's the only degree-holding member, having an Associates in Graphic Design.
Jin is an Artist, working with Matt to develop the art assets for our projects. Formerly a student at The U (U of MN for those not "in" with the lingo). Jin used to work with me on a previously completed project and joined me with the new venture.
I am a Designer/Producer/Whatever-the-hell-else-is-needed-of-me. I create level layouts, gameplay designs, story outlines, characters, mathematical formulas, and a wicked good cheesecake.
Our first game as a team is Asparagus. What is it? Imagine what would happen if Descartes designed a game and the only games he'd previously played were Earthbound and old point-and-click adventure games. That's about the best way I can describe it.
The game is being made to hearken to our old school roots. 320 x 240 2D graphics are the order of the day. It's really shaping up well and we're looking forward to being able to show everyone what we're working on.
I figured it would be advantageous to Froghaus if I were to purchase the GDNet+ subscription. So, I did.
What is Froghaus? It's a bit difficult to explain, so let me give you my best description.
I remember being a kid. I remember sitting in my backyard at home, swinging on the swingset that my dad put together for my brother and I (he bought it for us because he always wanted one as a kid). I remember using the swing at dusk, staring out at the twilight sky. Out in the creeping darkness, the stars were beginning to appear. Behind me, if I'd look, I'd see the last edge of day, fading gold in the Western sky. And there too, was home: a place of safety and comfort, should any evil come from the darkness in front of me, there inside my house were my parents and safety.
Froghaus is about remembering childhood. It's about remembering safety, home, and a life without responsibilities and stress. At Froghaus, you've a bunch of guys who grew up on games that were actually good and actually did their jobs of transporting you to other worlds and experiences. We remember those games.
Dedicated to the belief that tomorrow will be better than today, that hope is the most priceless of all emotions, and that life is always worthwhile, Froghaus aims to rekindle our connections with our childhood memories while providing you with a window to a much more simple time.
In a world with so much pain and torment at the moment, I suppose we arrived at the right time.