As I write this, I can look at the blog feed of this site and see that the second article is the 2017 New Years post about what we had planned to do in this year. I am a bit ashamed in what didn’t happen this year and know that I could have done better.
There are lots of excuses I could lay out about why I didn’t make any progress on any of those goals, but that would be exactly what I shouldn’t be doing. Instead, I am looking at this past year and deciding to make a change in my life for the better.
Back in 2014, I attempted the One Game A Month challenge. It wasn’t bad. I successfully completed 6 games, even if not all of them were good. It did feel great to make that many games and get them out there. I learned a lot, tried some new things, and had fun. That was the primary goal of that challenge. I would have loved to have actually made 12 full games.
This year, I want to do that again. But I am going to do it differently. Instead of trying to make 12 games of different genres and play styles, I am going to focus on only one play style, top-down action adventure games. These will be 12 Zelda like games. They certainly won’t all be swordplay and action, but they will all follow the same constraints.
The purpose of this particular challenge is to get me back up and running as a game developer and actually build up a set of classes, tools and libraries that will help me start work on Shattered Star: Prelude and Shattered Star. I really feel good about those games and feel that they would do well in the current indie game climate.
In addition to this goal of creating 12 games this coming year, I will be running a Patreon campaign to support the effort. As a perk to supporting this effort on Patreon, you will get the games earlier than the public, you will get to see the development process in action, and depending on your backing level, you may get to contribute creatively in some fashion.
Once a game is done, it will also be published to our itch.io store and posted for sale. I don’t plan on using any other store front at the moment, but I do want them all to be available for purchase. This will provide another avenue for people to support this effort to make 12 games this year.
In addition to this, I really want to do another conference. With the sad news that Super! Bitcon won’t be happening this year, we will instead like to shoot for the XPO conference that happens in September. That way, I will have more games to show off and will be able to have a greater impact on the success of this challenge. If I can have 9 games ready to go for that event, then I would be exciting.
I will also continue work on the Simple Site Builder and add some additional features for the free version as well as make some premium features. I would like it to be a tool available to as many game developers as possible. I think it could be very helpful for many people.
That is what I want to do this year. I want to do better this year than any year before it. I know I can do this. So here’s to a great 2018.
It has been a long time everyone. I have been working on a few things over the last few months, and I am finally ready to announce one of them. So here goes. Announcing the Simple Game Site Builder. This simple tool will help you get a clean and professional looking game site up and running in a matter of minutes.
A couple of weeks ago, I read a great article by Justin Carroll about the need to have a clean and well structured site to sell your game. Inspired by this article, I set out to make an easy to use tool that will give you a great looking site to sell your game. All you have to do is update the included game_info.xml file, put your images into the images directory, upload everything to your web server and the site takes care of itself.
There are some great features for this too.
Use either a link to the location you are selling your game, or use the embed code from your store of choice.
Include your trailer from whatever site is hosting it using their embed code.
Display any number of images and features.
Build a subscriber list for your company by including code from services like Mail Chimp.
Point people to all your social media locations.
Easy linking to your presskit()
Include analytics tracking code.
We have also made the Simple Game Site Builder available to you under the MIT license for open source software. You can use and modify this code for any need you have. We have also made the code available on Github. If you want to contribute to the project, you can do so there. You can also see this tool in action over at the ManlyBoy site.
With 2016 behind us and 2017 before us, we have the need to set new goals for the new year. This is something that we failed to do at the beginning of 2016 and it sure had an impact on what we accomplished this year. Frankly, that is not much. Instead of looking back and feeling bad about what didn’t happen, we, instead, want to look forward to what we want to do.
This year, we have a booth at Super! Bitcon, the local gaming convention run by the great guys at Oklahoma Retro Gamer Society. We had a lot of fun at 2014’s S!BC and had a good show. So I wanted to set us with another deadline for having a good gaming show. We won’t be doing another game jam, but we will show off a game or two. We really want to finish Shattered Star: Prelude and we hope having this deadline will get me there.
Once that is done, we will begin serious development on Shattered Star. This game has been in pre-planning for a long time and we really need to get it going. So once Prelude is done, we will have a good base to build on to bring the main game to life.
Those are the two biggest goals for this year and we hope that it will all work out. We have some other small game ideas we would like to play with, but we think the main focus should be on these main games. We do have other goals too.
We want to post more on this blog and on social media to build hype for our games. We really need to build our fan base and drive interest for the games. We think these games can be really successful if we can drive that interest early. We have already started and just need to keep it up.
We also want to create more videos. These will be development vlogs or something else similar. No strict plans for this, but something that we think could help build interest in the long run.
Finally, we want to support more of the tools we use. This includes contributing to the development of HaxeFlixel or paying cash to those who maintain the tools we use.
We at Divine Knight Gaming love our tech. We use some great technology to help us make our games and we advocate for any developer to try them out. We have done what we can to advocate for these technologies and have even made some modestcontributions to the underlying software. After all that, we were excited for this latest opportunity to support HaxeFlixel.
The goal was to raise $3,000 and match that with another $3,000 Lars and other developers and founders managed to raise. This $6,000 is enough to hire Alexander, who is a Russian resident, full time for a year providing a raise as well. In a massive show of support, this campaign raised the needed $3,000 in well less than a day. As of today, they are just shy of hitting 200% in contributions.
We at Divine Knight Gaming are proud to put in what we can toward that goal. We have backed the campaign for $15, a modest sum. We would have loved to contribute more but are doing what we can with what little we are making at this time. As we become more successful, we hope to be able to provide more meaningful contributions in both time and money.
We recommend that anyone interested in indie game developers and the engines they use to consider backing HaxeFlixel. Not only will you ensure that game developers have continued access to a quality game engine, but you also have a chance to score some great indie games upon the completion of the campaign.
The world of Shattered Star is full of villains and monsters. What good would a game like this be without a great cast of antagonists to defeat? Each game in the series will feature a whole lot of boss monsters to keep you busy.
Enter General Venetia, King Larost’s (we’ll learn more about him later) most trusted soldier. She has been loyal to Larost since long before he seized power. She was instrumental in defeating the true king’s private guard in order to dethrone him.
General Venetia wields a powerful ball and chain which she swings at her opponents. With this weapon she can crush boulders let alone her enemies’ heads. The trust Larost holds in Venetia led him to enchant her weapon to act as one of four keys needed to enter the most secure areas of Larost’s castle.
When you first meet Venetia, she takes you down and locks you in the dungeon. However, you soon get a second chance to take her on. Venetia’s armor makes fighting her difficult. While your sword is sufficient for the battle, something more precise would make thing go a whole lot easier.
While I am plugging away at Shattered Star: Prelude, Willis is busy with concept art and game art for Shattered Star itself. That game will have a total of 8 bosses and one final boss. It will also have some mini-bosses here and there as well.
Willis has sent me the first pieces of concept art for two of these bosses.
First up we have our space demon, Nova. She has control over the space around her, through which she can teleport and even manipulate gravity itself. If the player is not careful, she will end up crushing you or trapping you in difficult spaces.
Next up we have the light demon, Aurora. She has the power to manipulate light. She uses this power to create lasers and orbs of light to torment and blind her opponents. She may not look like much, considering she isn’t much taller than most monsters the player fights, but she is highly deadly.
Willis is busy creating more art for the other characters in the game. Keep an eye out here, on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google+ for more.
Hello everyone. We are sorry to have been away for so long. We have been working, at least as much as we can. While things are slow going, we are planning some great things in the near future.
First off, We want to assure you that we are working on our our primary game and have finally decided on a name. Charnette will star as the heroine in Shattered Star. We really like this name and find that the title describes a core aspect of our game really well.
We would also like to announce that we are working on a prequel of sorts, more of a prelude really. Shattered Star: Prelude is the story of Charnette’s ancestor who defeated the evil wizard and shattered the original gem which gave the wizard his power. This shattered gem is what gives the evil demons of Charnette’s world their powers.
SS:P is going to be a simple game. It takes place in a single castle with 4 generals and the evil wizard king that the hero must defeat. We have been working on the design of this castle and some of the bosses and monsters recently. We thought we would show you the initial design and layout of the castle.
As you can see, there are three floors and a basement. There are also four towers. Each tower houses one of the four generals and the rest of the castle will have a number secrets to explore.
We have already started preliminary design of the castle. Each colored section is a separate level map. Below you can see the first area of the castle, the courtyard.
You can also see that this castle is going to be a lot larger than the map of DK Adventure. You can see that one below. The courtyard is over twice as large as the whole of DK Adventure.
As for what you can expect of us this month, we plan on getting the preliminary design of all rooms of the castle done by the end of the month. We will also strive to have one boss and a few monsters animated. If we can, we will try to get that boss and the player in the game and interacting.
We also plan on taking part in this month’s Game Boy Jam. This is a 10 day event to make a game styled after the old school Game Boy. Since SS:P is going to be done in the style of the Game Boy, We thought this would be a fun exercise.
So there you have it. Some news, some plans and some cool stuff coming your way. We will be keeping you posted. We will be posting more regular updates here, on Twitter, on Facebook and Google+. We will also have a screenshot every Saturday. So keep and eye out.
After a great showing at Super! BitCon, we have made a number of updates to ManlyBoy and have released ManlyBoy for download via Itch.io.
Among the updates we made are a number of bug fixes to DK Adventure, more story elements to the end of the game and boss fight, some edits to the opening story section, a method to skip the story, four new and larger mazes for Amazing Mazes, top ten score list for Amazing Mazes and Space Battles. There is also a method to alternate between full screen and windowed mode and exiting the game via the escape key. Lots of good stuff there.
This is the official release and we likely won’t add much if any content to it. If we get a lot of downloads, we may add some more content to support our fans, but we don’t have any plans for it at the moment.
We have also made our first build of our Super! BitCon game jam game available, Glug Cave. This is the early version of the game and is missing a lot of features we wanted to add. It also has a number of significant bugs but nothing that will break the game.
We will continue development on this game and let you know as we add updates to it. We would like to see this game completed and made available for everyone to enjoy. In the mean time, download what we have and try it out. Also, you can send us feedback on what you would like to see in the game.
The games are available to download for free for Windows and Linux. We will add Mac support as soon as we can get a Mac computer to build and test on. You can also pay for the games if you want. Itch.io has a great pay what you want system. If you want to see more and better games from us, sending a few bucks our way will go a long way toward helping us. Paying us some money will also help speed up development of Glug Cave. That would be great.
So there you go. Give our games a download and share the love with your friends and family.
This past weekend, Willis and I had a table at Super! Bitcon, the local retro/indie gaming convention created and operated by the Oklahoma Retro Gamer Society. This is a great event for anyone who loves gaming.
We decided that getting a table there would be a great way to build up buzz and brand recognition for our company as we really step up our development efforts this year.
As such, we got this table and decided to show off some of what we have done. For this we needed something to show off. We had a number of games that we made last year, but we needed them to be in a convenient game playing package.
So what we did was we took one game we made last year, and then based our entire demo station off of it. So we took our Amazing Mazes game, put a fun mock-Gameboy border around it and then added two new games to go with it. As we described in our last post, this was a retro styled vertical shooter and an adventure game prototype we made as we prep for our next game project starring Charnette.
This setup was a really big hit. We had a lot of people come by to play these games and we received some great comments and some critique. One of the best things is that people loved the Manly Boy theme we put on all the games. We got a lot of great laughs as people reminiscenced about the classic Gameboy.
But that was not all we did. We also wanted to do something no one else at the Con was doing. We decided to do a personal game jam over that weekend. We set up each of our dev stations with two monitors, one facing us and the other mirrored and facing the convention goers so they could see what we were doing.
To start us off after setting up the booth, we picked one of four themes from a bucket and then one of four genres. With that, we picked a Water theme and an Adventure genre. This was a good pick for us as our major game project is an adventure game.
So we set out to make something water themed and adventury. After about 30 minutes or so of brainstorming, we came up with the idea of a water drop trying to find its way through a cave and back to its watery friends in the underground river/puddle/lake thing.
This was a pretty great experiment for us as the two of us haven’t sat together in the same room making a game at the same time. Neither have we set such a deadline for ourselves to complete a game.
The first day was a pretty interesting experience. The first hour or two was spent fleshing out the game idea which you can read our notes in this Google Doc. These notes are really simple but straight to the point. We had to make sure that what we did can be made in the roughly 13-15 hours of the event.
Once the planning was done, we began work on the actual game. By the end of the first day, we had a slightly playable prototype going on. We had a walk animation for our main character and the basic logic of the little fireball enemies.
Once the second day rolled around, we really stepped up our game. In the first two hours, we had the main character fully animated with the two player abilities, a water slash and a puddle transformation, programmed into the game with two game objects that require those abilities to bypass.
Then we go our fireball enemies working. Unfortunately, these guys had a number of bugs associated with them that took a lot of work to try and fix, although we were unsuccessful in fixing them completely over the weekend.
By early afternoon, I was busy adding a few convenience features and controller support so that convention goers could play the game. By the last hour, we had the game, as it was after 13 hours of development, playable on our main screen. We had a few people come by and try it out.
We didn’t have too many people play as the convention was closing and most people still attending were in the vendor room trying to score last minute deals on classic games. But we got some good feedback from those who did play.
Overall, it was a great experience for us. It was a great team building exercise for us. It helped us get a better feel for working together more closely and during a deadline.
So let us take a look at what we learned during this event.
The game jam was a really great way to get people to our table and keep them there as they would ask us questions about game development. People responded really well to this.
Having a game to play at our table was a great hit. Especially with it being three games in one. We had a lot of people come by and play all three games.
The game jam itself was a lot of fun and we made a good product that I think, with a little more polish and some added features, would make a fun completed game.
We had a bucket for people who wanted to sign up for a newsletter. We got a fair amount of emails from that. This is a great way for people to keep up on our work as well as build word of mouth for our up coming games.
We had little fliers with our website, Twitter and Facebook accounts on it. We handed out a lot of those and have already had an uptick in followers on Twitter and Facebook.
We got a lot of feedback on our Manly Boy games. Because two of them were somewhat competitive as there were top scores, we would have groups of people competing with each other to get the top score. This kept a steady flow of visitors to our table and kept us busy.
We knew our tools and the limitations of them and had few hangups. This is key for most any game jam. Many developers fail to complete game jams because they try learning something new during the jam rather than work with what they are familiar with.
15 hours just isn’t enough time for a game jam. While it was a great idea and people loved it, we probably should have started the game jam the Friday before so that we were further along first thing Saturday morning. With only 15 hours, we really didn’t get as much done or get it playable for convention goers soon enough.
I took part in a game development panel on Sunday afternoon. While the panel was great and I loved the experience, it really cut into game jam time and delayed playable launch of our game that afternoon. If I were to do a convention jam like this again, I would either not be on a panel or prefer to have it on Saturday.
We had a tip jar on our table in the hopes that people would drop a dollar or two in it as they played our games. Unfortunately, this was not at all successful. We made about $3.50 off this. We talked about this as we were closing down and felt that we would have made more money if we had something for sale rather than a tip jar. Next time we go to a convention, we are going to have CDs/DVDs with the game(s) we have on our demo station. We think this will be a better way to get people to hand us their money.
I take part in a podcast on Saturday nights and did so the Saturday night of the convention. This again cut into time we could have spent on game development. If I do a convention jam like this again, I will likely have to cancel any kind of appearance on a podcast for that weekend.
While we knew our tools and their limitations, we weren’t able to compensate for some of those limitations without ugly hacks. For example, the character we used was 16×32 pixels, but the game level was based on 16×16 grids. This caused some issues with the implementation of the collision detection between the player character and their surroundings. To compensate for this, we cut the player into two sprites, the upper half and lower half. This allowed us to overlap the top half with the level and base collision detection on the lower half. But it also introduced a lot of headaches to animating and playing the character that wouldn’t have been there if we used a single sprite.
We had stickers at our table, but they just were not that popular. I think that the limitations on use (they can only be stuck somewhere once) was the key factor. Something reusable like a button or badge or a toy would have been better. The developers behind us had paper beaks that people could get (their game was a bird themed game) and people loved them. We saw tons of people around the convention with them. We would have loved to have had something like that for our table.
Having a game on display for people to play was a great idea. However, one should spend more than a few nights a week for the two weeks before the convention to put it together. I was busy almost every night the week before getting this game ready for the convention and was up super late on Friday fighting to get the game running on the hardware I wanted to use. Eventually I was unsuccessful and had to switch the demo station hardware around and I ended up with a subpar machine for my work station. This hurt me as a developer as I had to struggle with a keyboard layout I didn’t like and software I don’t use regularly. So we need to make sure the demo station works long before the jam so there are no last minute surprises.
Next time we do a convention jam like this, if we do it again, we need to plan and bring our own food. We ended up having to hunt down food which cost us development time. Bringing a sack lunch and some snacks would have been much better.
One thing that makes game jams work is regular updates to social media during it. We completely failed at this. We posted no updates to Twitter or Facebook during this at all. We should have planned on posting one update to each platform every hour. It would have only taken a few minutes to take a screenshot and write a short sentence or two about the game and would have been worth it.
When doing a game jam of any sort, it is good to have goals set for the entire length. We had a single goal of “This game will be up and running on the demo station by Sunday afternoon”. Things probably would have been better if we had some sub goals for specific milestones during the time between.
This game jam taught us a lot about what we need to fix for our upcoming game. We decided to base the resolution of the jam game and its sprites on what we have planned for our current major project. That was a great idea as it taught us both a lot about what we can improve and avoid in our adventure game. We are happy to have learned these lessons now rather than learn them when it is critical for our other project.
This was our first convention and first game jam as a team. Now that we know a few things about both events, we feel a lot more confident going into other ones in the future. We might not ever do a convention jam like this again, but I would say no if the opportunity came up again.
Would we do a game jam again? Yes, definitely. We loved the experience and the break from our current project. It got a lot of creative juices flowing and we just could not stop talking about our next game and what we can do to improve it.
Would we get a table at a convention again? Absolutely. This is a great way to meet and talk to people and get them excited about our work. In person marketing like this is wonderful. We just need to make some better choices about what people can get from us.
Would we combine the two again? Maybe. I think the experience was great and the fact that it was unique for the convention really helped us out. It was also something interesting as our current project is not anywhere near convention stage. We plan on having a playable demo later this year and I think we would much rather have people playing that and investing time and money towards its development rather than be distracted by a game jam during the convention.
Would we recommend a convention jam to other developers? Only if they really want to. Take a look at our lessons learned and see if you are prepared for all that. If you still want to try it, by all means go ahead. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything (expect maybe for a giant pile of money ;).