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Still making games...

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Level selection

My brother suggested I should add some kind of level selection to Bennu that allowed the player to skip levels. I agreed it was an important issue, because most levels have different solutions, introduce new gameplay elements or require the player to further develop his basic game skills. If the player didn't manage to complete a level right now he couldn't play another and figure out the first one later.

After playing Braid I figured the best solution was to copy... I mean, use, the same pattern of level selection. In Bennu, each world will have a different number of levels, and to unlock the next world the player will have to complete half of the levels on the current world. On each world the player will be able to play the levels in the order he prefers (although obviously the first levels will be easier than the last ones). The exception will be the boss levels, which the player will only access after completing all the other levels in the current world. This last behaviour is yet to be implemented.

The new level selection was implemented on the game map. Below each map location, the levels are represented as spheres close to a path that represents the steps the player will have to take to finish each world. When the player completes a level its sphere will be placed upon the path, while the incomplete levels remain outside the path.

Click here for a video.





I now set limits on the joint rotation, making the ninja a proper rag-doll. Video here. The Farseer Engine provides the AngleLimitJoint, so it was quite easy. :)




It's Bennu!

So Bennu finished in the top 20 in the DreamBuildPlayContest!.

I wasn't expecting this after the top 4 were announced yesterday, but Bennu was even played at the Xbox Live Community Games Launch Event... I didn't even get an e-mail about this.

Also, the competition wasn't just hobby game developers: the first-place winners were a government-sponsored team of four. The second-place team were two professional game developers. So, I'm pretty happy about the result all things considered.




Intro Sequence

I've been working on the intro sequence, which explains how and why you end up controlling the head of a bird attached to sphere-shaped irons. :) Because XNA has no built-in API to handle video or flash content, I ended up doing it with the game engine.

Click here for a video.




Intro & Isis

I pretty much finished the intro to Bennu. I got some criticism about the "actors" in it looking too mechanical, so I attached some wires to make them look like marionettes. :) Click here for a video.

I've also been working on the Isis "actor", which will show up in the tutorial. Below is the finished drawing and the picture she was inspired from (though the starting point was obviously the Set drawing):





I did an interview about Bennu for a site I hadn't heard of before:

I forgot to ask where they heard of Bennu in the first place. Mmm. EDIT - Turns out the editor read a thread about Bennu on Reddit.




I quit my job...

...To make games full-time.

Yes, this is going to be one of those posts.

My name is Ricardo Moura, Once a Bird is made of myself and my cousin. I do the programming and "art" and he does the music and sound effects.

I quit my job at the end of July but only left it mid-September. It had been making me sick for years and seemed to be going nowhere. The job consisted of programming various pieces of the back-end of a stock-broker / bank, It was well paid but I very rarely did any interesting stuff.

If you have been following this journal, you're probably wondering at this point how can this guy quit his job when all his games so far were commercial failures. If you didn't, now you know all the games we made so far were commercial failures.

The answer is, I've been working as a programmer for 12 years now and for about 5 years I've been doing games in my spare time. I consistently enjoyed making games more than programming "corporate" software. When you reach a certain point in life you realize that it's very easy to spend most of your waking hours working on stuff that you don't like (and doesn't really matter much to you) just so you can make a living (this realization probably comes earlier for most people).

Also, I realized I could survive some time with the money I saved.

So, games. Fold was our latest and best-selling game, it was released in June for iPhone and sold 1016 copies so far. If you want to take a look, the app store link: https://itunes.apple.com/pt/app/fold/id645248522

Although it didn't sell much, Fold had very positive reviews, including a glowing review by tuaw.com: http://www.tuaw.com/2013/07/13/daily-iphone-app-fold-is-the-most-original-ios-puzzler-in-years/...

In September I entered the Ludum Dare 48-hour compo alone and made Twitchy Thrones, a real-time strategy game parodying Game of Thrones. Here's a link to the post-mortem: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2013/09/12/twitchy-thrones-post-mortem/.

For our first full-time game, we decided to remake Twitchy Thrones for iPhone. Right now I'm doing pixel art for it:

A map:

A knight's death animation:

Thanks for reading, let us know what you think! Art critiques in particular would be very welcome. :)




Hey kids...

...I guess I can say "kids" now, since I'm almost 30. >

I've finished most of the artwork for the third "world", the egyptian Underworld, and I've also been working on new levels. Click here for a vid of a new level in the Underworld.

Right now I have 13 levels, I want at least 30. Making a level is fast once I get an idea, the problem is getting it. :)




Haiku update

DreamBuildPlay contest deadline June 12.

Here's a video of when a player grabs a new item:
[media] [/media]

Here's a video of the game intro:





We added grenades to the game. Like in most games, the grenade is a powerful and scarce weapon that should only be used in tight situations, giving the player a brief respite from a nasty situation. The player will never have more than a few grenades at a time and they will be very expensive.

Instead of the right trigger, which is used to fire the other weapons, the player throws a grenade with the left trigger. The grenade is only launched when the player releases the trigger, so that it can be cooked to explode earlier than normal. If the player doesn't release the trigger in time, the grenade explodes in the player's position, dealing him just a slight amount of damage. This way the player can use a grenade to get rid of zombies crowding him.

Visually, grenades were given a red "aura" because otherwise they wouldn't be easily visible at night. Also, I used a nearly untouched stock particle effect from the Mercury Particle Engine for the explosion.

Video here:




Graveyard Shift Update...

Still "working" on Graveyard Shift:

- Corrected a slew of bugs.

- Changed the main font to something more suitable to an action/horror game.

- Fixed a design problem: previously, the only way to win a decent quantity of souls was to lay down a soul sucker tile upgrade. Souls are the currency in this game, so if you didn't lay down the mentioned upgrade before running out of money, you would be stuck with very limited weapons and a very small base. So now, the tile that is already set when you start a game accelerates time during the day and captures nearby zombie souls by night. The player will still need to lay down soul sucker upgrades as her base grows.

- Added delimiters to show the player where the soul capturing limits are (helps to place new soul sucker upgrades).

- Added a new weapon, the Fever Ray (homage FTW). The fever ray will be one of the more powerful weapons, it creates a continuous ray that both damages and pushes
back zombies. With an yet-to-be-introduced upgrade it will hit all zombies in its path.

Here's a new video showing the Fever Ray (in the beginning I place four soul sucker upgrades to increase the soul capture range, it's better to watch in full screen to see all the details):




Graveyard Shift

Like Matt Damon in the Jimmy Kimmel Show, Super Ninja Kung-Fu Puzzle is the project that keeps getting bumped for another. This time for the...

What's it about this time? Graveyard Shift is a thumbstick shooter / tower defense hybrid set in a zombie-infested graveyard. The player builds his base during the day and at night the zombies attack. The game has been in development for some months now.

The player kills the zombies with guns. Instead of towers the player lays down tiles on the ground . Zombies spawn out of the ground but never on a player tile, although they can walk over them.

Tiles cost money, which the player gets by killing zombies and grabbing the coins they drop. Tiles can also be upgraded to benefit the player or affect the zombies. In the video below the player is setting down tiles and upgrading them to slow down the zombies:

[media] [/media]

The game will also feature a co-op mode with up to 4 players. In the video below there are two players, one of which is reading the tombstones:


Right now we have a basic prototype but there is much to be done: add all tile upgrades and guns, replace some of the art, add sound effects and music, etc.





[size=2]So, I changed the fever ray so that when you play co-op, and you cross the fever rays, you get a single ray dealing 4x the normal damage:

[media] [/media]

[size=2]It was inspired by the end of the first Ghostbusters movie.




Get In The Ring - Part 2


I'm now into week 3 of Get In The Ring's development. A friend told me the camera was a bit jerky and pointed me to this excellent article that covers anything and everything about cameras in side-scrollers. For now I've adopted the camera smoothing approach where the camera chases the player position instead of always being centered on it. It helps when the player jumps around to counter enemy attacks.

I've also been implementing a new enemy that grabs the player and leaves him (more) vulnerable to enemy attacks if he doesn't react fast. Gameplay video:




Get In The Ring

Get In The Ring is our new game, currently in the second week of development. It's a top-down brawler inspired by the combat system in the latest Batman games, coupled with the constant upgrade progression systems of games like You Must Build A Boat. It's being developed in Unity, here's the first gameplay GIF:

The game uses Unity's 2d Physics system to manage player and enemy movement and collisions, with the occasional "cheating" to move the player quickly when counter-attacking. The physics system seems to handle this quite well.

Unity also provides a TimeScale variable that makes the slow motion effects easy to do.




Frog continued...

After finishing the frog sprites, I used the Farseer Physics Engine to include the frog in the game.
In order to make the frog feel real each body part was added as a separate entity and revolute joints were employed to connect the body parts to each other in the positions shown below:

A revolute joint connects two bodies but doesn't constrain their relative angles, which means that after adding them the frog's legs and tongue rotated like the frog had every bone in his body broken. However Farseer also provides angle limit joints, that constrain the angle between two entities. These limits can be changed after the simulation has started.

Click here for a movie showing the leaping frog. Initially the upper and lower limits of the angle joints are set to zero, so the frog is completely rigid. Each time I press a key these limits are set to something close of a real frog and an upwards force is applied to the frog body, thus making it look like a leap. Another key sets the joint limits to the initial values. It's all Farseer's work, really.

Next step is controlling the frog's leap so he'll jump from platform to platform.





I'm doing an animated frog for Bennu, so I started by doing the frog sprite first.
Below are the steps the sprite went through in its creation.

1. I searched the net for reference pictures and drawings.

2. Paths were used to create the main shapes of the frog...

3. ...and the animated parts were left on separate layers so they can be used as separate images.

(These separate images will be rotated and translated to animate the frog)

4. Shadows and highlights were used to make the frog more 3-D (the amulet on the top-right of the reference images was the main source for this)

And it's (mostly) done. :)



Fold on Steam

We're releasing an improved version of Fold on Steam this Wednesday. Fold is an original puzzle game where you fold, expand and rotate blocks to bring them together until only a block of each colour remains. The mobile version was considered by Apple as one of the best games in its release week. This version has improved graphics and interface. The main improvement consists of a background that reacts to your input. Where in the mobile version the background was a simple gradient, it's now composed of blocks that are dislocated when the player performs some action in the game. Here are some steam keys, the first character is bogus to avoid bots: APWLAX-6EAXH-YJ63E
E6ARDB-QBA83-EJFX2 Our Steam page is here.

Fold - First Update

The first update for Fold is out, featuring a new world with new concepts: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fold/id645248522?ls=1&mt=8

Here's a couple of screenshots:





So Fold was released on the iOS app store:


EDIT - Here's the release trailer:

Here's a screenshot:

So what is Fold anyway? Fold is a puzzle game where you have blocks that collapse into each other in a chain reaction. The goal is to finish each level with just one block of each color. Right now there are 3 worlds, each world introduces a new concept.

Fold was written in Objective-C. The game is free to play, but you only have access to half the levels on each world. A single in-app purchase unlocks all the levels in the current version and all future updates.

Here's another screenshot:




Fog, new tile upgrade, new zombie animations

My brother has been working on new zombie sprites to replace the existing animations, which are a bit crude.

There's a new tile upgrade that links zombies, so that when a zombie is hit by a gun all linked zombies are hit with half the damage.

And fog. Lots of fog.

Video here: [media] [/media]





Proper flips are now implemented! A sensor geometry, with collision response disabled, was added to the ninja body to make sure no objects are in the ninja's trajectory before he does a flip. Without this check, the ninja could do a flip right before hitting a wall, preventing the player from doing a proper jump. ">Video here.




First level!

Welcome to the Bennu journal.

Right now I've finished the first prototype of the game, which has programmer art *shudders* and lacks many of the features I hope to implement.

Bennu is a puzzle game that can be described as puzzle-bobble meets spiderman meets some-cool-stuff-not-done-yet. Basically you control Bennu, an old bird that can't fly for long and so goes around each level using his tail to grab to whatever he can and swing himself around, smashing bricks with his head (the head and the bricks must have the same color), until there are no bricks left. Currently his color changes every five seconds but in the future the player will have to touch bonuses with the Bennu to change color.

Right now the blocks are generated randomly, but in the final game each level will have a hand-made layout. Click here to see a movie of the game.

The game is being developed using XNA and the Farseer 2D Physics Engine, which (so far) I highly recommend. :)



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