Official Release Of ManlyBoy And Early Access To Glug Cave

ManlyBoy LogogAfter 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.

Glug Cave Title Screen

 

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.

Game Jamming During A Game Convention: A Convention Jam Tale

Our Super! BitCon BoothThis 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.ManlyBoy Game Select

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.

Glug Cave running on our game stationBy 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.

Glug Cave Title ScreenThe Good:

  • 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.

Glug Cave GameplayThe Bad:

  • 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.

Other Lessons:

  • 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.

Conclusion

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 ;).

Exciting News For Super! BitCon

We got our stickers in the mail. These look great and we hope that those who come by our booth love them.

Divine Knight Gaming StickersWe also have a great gaming setup to have on display. We will have an Ouya hooked up to a tv with a Gameboy themed game bundle for people to play while they visit our booth. This bundle will host three games that show off a little of what we can do.

The game will have three parts. The first is an Ouya port of our Amazing Mazes game. This is a great game and it has a lot of potential for people to compete with each other as they try to reach the top time on the mazes.

Amazing Mazes Gameplay

The next game is one I actually made this past week in just two days. I wanted to get my creative and development juices flowing for the event and making this game helped a lot.

This game is a vertical shooter with a space theme. This game will also give people a chance to play and try to beat each other’s top scores. The game is actually pretty difficult once you get a little bit into it. But that is by design.

Space Battles GameplayFinally, this bundle will feature the prototype for our next game. This prototype will also act a bit like a precursor to our current game project as well. Providing a little back story about Charnette’s family and the island she finds herself stranded on.

DK Adventures Gameplay

But that is not all. During the course of the two day event, We will be making a game during a personal Super! BitCon game jam. This is a challenge we are taking up to kind of set our booth apart from others in the area.

During this jam, Willis and I will have our computers set up with monitors facing outward that will mirror our development screens. This will give people visiting a chance to see how we work, what tools we use, and a final game by the end of Sunday. We hope that you like what we make.

During this time, we will have a tip jar both physically and digitally set up and people can donate to our cause while they are there. Everyone who donates will get a Sticker. Also, everyone who donates will get the first copies of the game we make at the event if they leave us their email address.

We hope that you like what we have planned and we look forward to seeing you all there.

Meet The Star Of Our Next Game: Charnette

CharnetteWho is Charnette?

Charnette was raised by her father from a very young age. Her mother died during a plague that swept through her home country when she was 5 years old. Her father did not have the money necessary to hire a nanny to raise her as a young woman is typically expected to be raised, so he did what he could.

Her father was part of the national army and spent much of his time with his regiment. But since he had to take Charnette with him, she worked as his page and later his squire.

Although she spent much of her time training with her father, she still took an interest in the girls in town. She would do her best to fit in and participate in their games and activities. This effort ended up influencing her skills and talent in fighting. For instance, the skills she picked up in sewing and fashion helped her design a suit of armor that better fit her body and fighting style. She also gained many skills in tending wounds and treating the sick.

Over the course of her early years, she gained significant experience in swordplay and became quite skilled in fighting with both sword and shield. She also spent time training with a variety of weapons in order to push herself.

In the summer after her 17th birthday, her father and his regiment were called to fight in a war with a nation on the other side of the sea. With her still being his squire at the time, she was brought along to help in this effort. During the trip across the sea, a huge storm arose and destroyed the ship she was on.

She woke up on the beach of a strange island along with her father who suffered a terminal wound during the sinking of the ship. Her father knowing his death was coming soon bestowed his sword and shield to Charnette for her protection.

Upon his death and burial, Charnette set out to explore this strange island and to search for a way off. While exploring she comes across a man being chased by a monster and saves him. This man, recognizing the crest found on the shield as on described in legend, implores Charnette to save his country from an army of demons and monsters who have cursed the land and the people.

This is where your journey as the gamer begins. And as a special treat, here is an early look at her in game sprite:

Charnette SpriteWe are currently running a GoFundMe campaign to help us buy a banner and some swag for Super! BitCon. If you donate, you will get some of this swag as well as early access to this game.

 

The Power Of Free: The Tools We Use

Just yesterday, One Game A Month featured my words of wisdom on their twitter account. They had been posting these statements from various developers for the last few months as a way to promote those developers and the project. Here is what I had to say.

If you can’t read it, here is what it says:

There are plenty of great free tools available for you to make great games. From art to design to IDEs to APIs. Explore them and find something that works for you. It is only after you find something that works for you that you can bring about the best you have to offer.

This got me thinking about our own development pipeline. If we don’t follow our own advice, then what is the point in sharing it? The good thing is that we do follow that advice.

What is our pipeline then? Let me break it down for you.

HaxeFlixel

For our game engine, we have chosen to use HaxeFlixel. This is a very powerful and very useful game engine for creating 2D games of all types. Using this engine, we created 7 games and prototypes last year.

I even recently gave a talk about HaxeFlixel at the January Oklahoma Game Dev Meetup. Here are the slides from that talk.

IDEs

What good is a game engine if you can’t program with it? Thankfully, Haxe and HaxeFlixel have a lot of great IDEs that are compatible. For use, we use a mix of IDEs depending on where we are currently developing.

If I am on a Windows computer, I use the great FlashDevelop IDE. this was originally designed for Flash development using Flex. Now it has been expanded to fully support Haxe development.

If I am working on Linux, I use Geany for now but am still experimenting with other IDEs but Geany is the one that works best so far.

There are some paid alternatives, but they are out of our price range as they often cost several hundred dollars.

Graphics With GIMP and Inkscape

Creating games requires a lot of graphical development. There are tons of tools available for you to use, some better than others, some easier to use than others. But the two tools that I use more often than any others are free and powerful.

GIMP is an alternative to Photoshop. It may not have all the features of the paid software and might not be as powerful, but if all your doing is creating 2D graphics for games, then it certainly meets the need.

Inkscape is an SVG graphics editor similar to Adobe’s Illustrator. It can be used to create all kinds of banners, logos and even game graphics. Again, this is not as powerful as the paid software, but it gets the job done for no cost.

We do have plans to use other software, some paid, some free, but these meet our current needs. We have a paid license for the 2D animation software Spriter which has HaxeFlixel support. When we get into 3D game development, we may use 3DS Max, but if I can convince Willis, we could use the free Blender.

Sound and Music

Sound and music is something we are currently working to expand. Music is a little more difficult for us to do ourselves as neither I nor Willis are musically inclined. But I have been practicing with LMMS, a great piano roll music creator. Of course, this is one of those areas that would be much better suited for outside contracting.

For sound effects, we are currently using SFXR to create the basic sounds for our game. It has some really cool features for creating base sounds and experimenting and altering them.

For more detailed and mixed sounds, we are using Audacity. This is a great free tool that gets the job done.

Recording and Video Editing

This is an area that is a little more difficult for us to get right. There are so many free tools but not all of them work as well as we would like. So we are still experimenting. For a while, we have been using OpenShot for video editing and it works for now. We would like something a little more stable and powerful, but you can’t really complain for the price.

Recording game footage is the real tough one. We have found and like Simple Screen Recorder, which works really well. However, it does not support recording to GIF files. So far we have been experimenting with GifCam and that seems to be working how we like it. But we need more time to play with it.

Version Control and File Sharing

This is probably the easiest no-brainer list for this category. The two most popular and powerful version control solutions are both free. Our current webhost provides free Subversion support and that is what we use. But Git is also a great alternative.

For sharing files outside of version control, we use a service called Copy. I was able to get a lot of file space for free just by sharing my referral code (which that link contains). Also, anyone who signs up using that referral code gets free space on their account.

DropBox is also a good free alternative and they have plenty of ways for you to get even more space for free. You can use either one to share large files between members of your team.

Conclusion

This is our main development pipeline. There is plenty of room for improvement as we expand our work flow and develop more detailed and expansive games, but I don’t see us changing very much in the near or far future.

But I hold true to my original statement. If you are just starting out developing games, use free tools. If you start making money, then you can expand to using paid tools that have more features. But you may just end up using what is familiar and fast.

What To Expect From Divine Knight In 2015

Happy New Year From Divine Knight Gaming2014 was a fun year for us. We decided that we would try to make one game a month. While we did not succeed in that goal, we did manage to make more games this year than we have in years past. They weren’t the biggest games or the best, but there were complete games. It felt good to have that on our plate.

Along with that, we attempted a Kickstarter for Demon’s Hex. Unfortunately, we could not get the attention and support we had hoped for. So we decided to put it on the back burner for the time being and focus on something else.

So that is where we find ourselves at the start of 2015. We have decided that our goal is to create an adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda, Alundra and Illusion of Gaia.

We plan on showing off the concept at Super! BitCon and subsequent events. We also want to hold a crowdfunding campaign for this one but we want to make sure that the game and campaign are as impressive as possible.

We are still planning on making a few smaller games along the way too. This year, we plan to take some time to actually participate in one or more Ludum Dare. We have seen some pretty cool games from other developers sprout from those events and want to take some time to challenge ourselves with them.

Last year we learned a great deal about HaxeFlixel. We even got to make some modest contributions to the HaxeFlixel API. We hope that this year we can do more to help build the library we know and love. We want to contribute more to the the community.

We also got familiar with Tiled Map Editor and had quite a bit of practice incorporating levels created with it in our games. This tool will be a huge help in bringing our next games to life.

This year we have plans to incorporate a new tool into our pipeline. Spriter is an animation tool for creating 2D sprites and animations for games. We backed the project when it was just a Kickstarter campaign. We love how powerful it can be for creating all kinds of games. Our next project will give us a chance to actually work with it and figure out how to use it to make the coolest characters we can.

We can’t wait to show you what we plan on doing this year and we plan on updating the site on a more regular basis. We even will get Willis to make some contributions from time to time. He is a difficult person to get online, but it will happen.

So keep following us for some great news and updates.

We Are Still Here; We Are Still Working

So, we are still around. We may not have updated in a while, but that doesn’t mean we have stopped working.

After the failure of the Demon’s Hex Kickstarter, we took some time to do some soul searching. We decided that we were going to put an indefinite hold on Demon’s Hex and work on something else.

We are going to be working on something a little more action oriented for our next game. Willis and I both have a lot of fond memories of action adventure games from our youth. Some of our favorites are the Legend of Zelda, Alundra, Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Evermore.

So we are working on our own action adventure game. We don’t have anything to show just yet as we are currently in our design phase, but our hope is to have something to show by the end of January and a playable demo by March.

We also hope to make this game available on the Ouya, PC, Mac, Linux and other consoles as funding and fate permits. We want it to be fully playable with a variety of controllers on a variety of platforms. Of course, we will have keyboard controls for those playing on PCs if that is their choice.

We want you guys to keep watching this space. Over the course of the next few months, I am going to be posting updates on our progress. We want to build up interest in this project, something that we were not able to garner with Demon’s Hex.

Our main goal is to be able to have this game demoed at Super! BitCon at the end of March. We want to have people playing the game at that point. We feel that by then, we should have something that people will enjoy and can then start looking for funding.

End Of An Era; Thank You For Your Support

Has it been a month already? The time has absolutely flown by. As this campaign comes ot a close, our hearts are filled with a variety of emotions. Happiness that so many people put faith in our work enough to back us, sadness to see that we did not reach our goal.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who backed this project. You guys are great. We could never be sure on who would back us and we were surprised by the diversity of those who did back us. We knew some of you guys, but others are complete strangers to us. So it is great to see that there are people out there who like our work on its own merits as well as those who backed us because they believe in us as developers.

However, the campaign did not get off the ground. We held out hope til the end but it didn’t take off. We tried reaching out to various media outlets to spread the world, but we got no hits. I guess this project was just not interesting enough for it to rise above the tides.

So what is in the future for Demon’s Hex? We are not really sure. We would like to finish what we advertised here, but it seems that even if we did, we might not bring in the player base that would make it financially feasible. So we will have to adjust that vision.

Basically, this means that multiplayer is out of the question. Without the funds from the campaign, we won’t be able to run the servers needed to make it work.

For now, we are going to iron out the wrinkles of the battle system and possibly implement the story mode. But this will be a piece meal thing. We have decided that we are going to focus primarily on another game, so this one will not get the full attention we planned.

We have not decided on our next game. We are going to be meeting over the next few weeks to decide on that. We do have a few games that we want to work on, some that our One Game A Month challenge have helped prototype and a few that we have not yet developed a prototype for. Needless to say, the next game will be something we believe in.

Thank you again for your support, whether you backed us or just shared this campaign.

Our Latest HaxeFlixel Contribution: Zelda Style Screen Transitions

The title is probably a little deceptive. The truth is that HaxeFlixel already has such a camera transition. However, it didn’t function 100% in the way it needed to. You can follow this problem in this HaxeFlixel forum post.

The problem was simple. I was using grid based movement for my character. I was following that character with the camera. When that character moved off the current screen to the north or west, everything was fine. You took one step off screen and the camera switched. However, when you tried moving east or south off the screen, you had to take two full steps off the screen.

This presented a problem as the character might have interactions waiting for them on the next screen that could be impacted by taking a “blind” step into it.

Consider the original Zelda game. In some rooms in the dungeons, there are spiked blocks that move quickly to damage you when you cross their path. These blocks are often positioned so that the path is the very next row of blocks after a doorway. In Zelda, you always start a room standing in the doorway. So if the camera in Zelda functioned the way it did in Flixel, you would have had to move directly into the path of the spikes to switch the screen.

Proper Screen Transition when moving up.

Proper Screen Transition when moving up.

The fix was really easy. The camera was checking to see if you were on the next screen, but was using a greater than sign (>) to do it. This meant that the player character had to be 1 pixel greater than the screen width to trigger the change. In many games, this wouldn’t be an issue. But with the introduction of grid based movement, where the player moves a set number of pixels with each directional press, this is a huge problem. If the squares in the grid are 16 pixels wide, that means you have to move a full 16 pixels into the next room to trigger the camera shift.

Improper Screen Transition when moving down.

Improper Screen Transition when moving down.

So the fix for this was to simply change the greater than sign to a greater than or equal to sign (>=). Once again, the change is nearly imperceptible if you are not using grid based movement. But for those of us that are, it makes a world of difference.

So this makes my second HaxeFlixel contribution and my first to the actual HaxeFlixel API. If I keep this up, I might just become a HaxeFlixel contributing junkie.

Less Than A Week Left

So we have less than a week left until this Kickstarter is done. As of now, things are not looking too hot, but miracles can happen.

We really want to get this game done for you guys and regardless of successful funding or not, we are going to get a good game out to you.

The fact of the matter is that if we are to bring you the game we describe, we will need to get the funding we are asking for. So we need you guys to share this campaign with everyone you know. It is really all down to the fans as to whether this game is a success.