I have a few updates to present. First, the Game Projects page has been updated with a lot more games created for 2014 #OneGameAMonth. Second, I’ll be at MAGFest to participate in their Global Game Jam, so I won’t have a #WeeklyGameMusic this weekend. It will be back on-schedule next weekend.
#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.
This week’s music comes from a touching and tragic game called Papo & Yo. Despite it’s fantastical (or more correctly, magical realism) settings, the puzzle platformer touches what it’s like to live under parental abuse. It’s quite fitting, then, that the credits music for this game, Liberation (La Muerte de Papo) by Brian D’Oliveira, depicts a sad, hollow echo of what feels like a child trying to connect with his/her parent, but the feeling isn’t reciprocated.
Papo & Yo starts with a small, South American boy named Quico hiding from what appears to be a monster (only the shadow is revealed). While being cramped inside an air duct, a magical chalk drawing of a portal appears near Quico. As if entranced, our hero walks through the portal, teleporting him to what looks like a bright, colorful outdoors of a slum neighborhood. Immediately taunted by a girl about the same age as Quico, he ventures out in the new universe he’ve stumbled upon filled with incredible art and imagination.
As a 3D puzzle-platformer, Papo & Yo has a lot of interactive chalk drawings acting as switches, gears, or pulleys to affect the surroundings. Playing around with these drawings can cause various effects, including twisting the ground to turn into walls, or making buildings fly like birds to create platforms. Despite this creative core, however, the most vital game element is the uneasy relation the player has with a monster. Helpful but lazy, the monster can help push heavy objects or provide his bouncy belly as a way to jump towards higher platforms. Unfortunately, said monster also has a horrible addiction to frogs, causing it to become angry and immediately attack poor Quico. The puzzles in the game regularly has the player guiding the monster to vital puzzle elements while it’s in a docile state, and avoiding it as soon as frogs hops in at the most inopportune times.
Papo & Yo was originally developed as a downloadable title for Playstation 3. It is now available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.
#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.
Great game music can come from the unlikeliest places, and casual games are no exceptions. Take this Insaniquarium Deluxe music, for example. Tank 1, composed by Jonne Valtonen, manages to keep a facade of normalcy and simplicity in an otherwise crazy game about saving poor fishes from aliens. Seriously.
Insaniquarium Deluxe generally has two phases: fish simulation phase where you manage the money dropped by the guppies and carnivores, and the alien phase where you use lasers to kill them before it consumes every fish in the tank. The stage ends when you purchase three egg pieces, hatching a new helper. The majority of the time is spent in maintaining your fish population, feeding them properly, and adding more fish into the tank without running out of money. The formula is shockingly addicting as each stage introduces new aliens, helpers, and obstacles to make your resource management that much more difficult.
Insaniquarium Deluxe is available on PC.
Now would be a good time to look at 2014 in retrospect and see what I achieved, and what I haven’t. So without further ado, let’s get right to it!
In January, I’ve visited and teamed up with various friends from IGDA DC and new friends from American University to create a new game for Global Game Jam 2014. That game? Ichabot Crane, a first-person puzzle game where you can through the lead character’s head to activate switches and have better perspective of the level. As with the usual game jam rules, it took 48 hours to develop with 5 people to develop this game. The unique premise of the game got a mention as one of the best free games of the week by PC Gamer. While I moved on to other projects, the rest of the team has been keeping the game alive with an appearance at Smithsonian’s Indies In The Middle event.
In July, I worked with e4 Software to make one last game with them: ZUP! It’s a tilt-based arcade game where you have to swerve Top Hat Joe away from spikes and other obstacles while collecting power-ups to help his journey up to the stratosphere and beyond. The project was in development for 1.5 years with 4 people. Since it’s a mobile game, it’s available in a few app stores, including iPhones, iPads, Androids, Amazon Kindles, and Barnes & Noble’s Nooks.
In September, I developed a game that speaks loudly of my experience with making mobile games: Not a Clone. The minigame collection of cloned mobile games signifies the shallow and frequently short nature of clones. It’s heavily critical of the mobile app stores allowing clones to become popular without providing any highlight or care to the original product. It took about a month working solo to create this game. It was featured in GameJolt, and also got a mention in Warp Door. Thanks to the GameJolt feature, it’s one of the fastest growing game I’ve created, with a strong Let’s Play following.
In October, I developed an application intended to help developers create more engaging games with Make it Juicy: Easy Methods to Make Your Game More Engaging. It was created in 2 weeks solo for a presentation at Capital Region Unity Developers. Hopefully, other developers had found the application to be educational as the Unity Developers had during the presentation.
Also in October, I participated in Bacon Game Jam 08 to create a game in 48-hours again. As a result, I had an innovative accident, and developed Suddenly, Thousands, a game about controlling multiple synchronized characters at once while traversing levels and solving their puzzles. Shockingly enough, I’ve managed to create it in solo within the 48-hour time limit. Despite the short development time, this game had the highest critical praise: it was the highest rated game in Bacon Game Jam, had a mention as one of the best free games of the week in PC Gamer, and a positive review in Jay Is Games.
In November, I’ve started on Prototype: Murakami, an on-rails third-person shooter with point & click puzzle elements inspired by Killer7, but due to poor scoping, I haven’t been able to finish it in the one month schedule I originally estimated. The prototype is still in development right now, so it might see the light of day…
In December, Robert Denner and I teamed up with Indies Need Booze to create a Indies Need Booze patron-exclusive Letters From Secret Santa, a narrative platformer where the words are your platforms. It took about a week to make the game, with Robert as the writer and level designer, and myself as developer. As it remains a patron exclusive for a few more days, the only reception we’ve received were from AbleGamers‘ Twitch live stream interview.
In December, a number of Tech Valley Game Space members gathered for Ludum Dare 31, and created Laundry Day, a laundromat simulator. 8 people participated, mostly on-and-off, to make the game in 72-hours. Instead of using the Unity engine to make the game as I usually do, we decided to learn how to use Construct 2, as this was the first game most of the team members has ever developed. With a game engine like Construct 2 that doesn’t require programming, it would make it easier for others to contribute. Despite being a completely goofy satire of social and free-to-play games, we ranked within the top 100 games for humor, so many thought it was an interesting game.
With 7 projects finished, and 1 in development, 2014 was quite a productive year for me. Here’s to hoping that I can finish Prototype: Munch pretty quickly.
There were some major events going on in 2014. After a long 4 years working as a regular software engineer, I’ve decided I’ve had enough saved (and endured enough stress) to go independent. On August, I quit the company I was working at, and started working for my own company, Omiya Games, full-time. Furthermore, I moved from Maryland to New York to rent a cheaper location. There, I was able to get in contact with Albany IGDA, and re-establish a few contacts there. I happen to meet with Jamey Stevenson in one of their meeting, who was working on establishing a game developer community near the area.
Sure enough, late October, Jamey managed to secure a co-working office, and we both moved in to the new Tech Valley Game Space. The office has been spectacular so far, and we’re both really enjoying it. I’ve showcased Suddenly, Thousands at the Rensselaer Game Showcase on November, along with Jamey Stevenson and Keith Morgado from Binary Takeover. Lastly, I helped Tech Valley Game Space conduct the Ludum Dare game jam. Overall, it was a busy, exciting year.
On To 2015
So what’s there to look forward to in 2015? A lot, it turns out. With Tech Valley Game Space established, a large part of my time will be spent helping them out as they gather more developers and create a more inviting environment for those curious in joining in. The projects I’ll be working on at the start of the year are already fixed: there’s Global Game Jam going on at MAGFest that I plan to attend, and I still have Prototype: Murakami to finish. Right after those two projects, I need to figure out how to make Omiya Games sustainable. Given the large number of game jam games I have in my disposal, I simply need to look for the game with the best balance between popularity and simplicity to reduce development time. In this case, Not a Clone and Suddenly, Thousands seems to be the most ideal, although the former is expensive to develop despite short development time, and the latter will require a lot of experimentation. If I don’t make any progress in making the business sustainable, well, it might be time to seek a new way to make income.
#WeeklyGameMusic: New week, new music.
Welp, I’m in the mood for a RPGMaker horror game. Here’s a pretty darn good one, with a simple but moving narrative, forgiving horror mechanic, and very likable characters. KaRASU’s rearrangement of kouri’s Title Theme does a great justice to Ib‘s use of juvenile perspective to increase its creepiness factor. Welcome to Ib‘s mystical art gallery, where the lead character’s 9-year-old innocence can’t save the gallery’s dark influence on her sanity.
Ib is a 9-year-old girl walking around curiously through the legendary Weise Guertena’s art gallery with her parents until she comes upon one large, very immersive painting. It’s at this moment that the lights turns off, all visitors (including Ib’s parents) disappears, mysterious writings starts appearing on the walls, and the paintings starts to animate and even make creepy sounds. Amidst the horror and confusion from all the commotions, Ib finds herself staring at a floor installation depicting the ocean that’s begging her to jump in. And so she does, into the prideful, distrusting, and envious world of Guertena’s finest works.
Ib is a story-driven RPGMaker horror game that is thankfully tame on both story and horror. This surprisingly well-balanced adventure involves avoiding enemies while solving very clever puzzles, and learning more about each character that joins your party. While the game is very forgiving, with a unique 5-hit-point health meter depicted by an image of a rose, the method of recovering health is very limited.
Ib is available on the PC for free. An English translation of this Japanese game can be found here: http://vgperson.com/games/ib.htm