Another Game Engine Now Available To Indies!

35093169_p0 

CryEngine recently released a version on Steam for a subscription price of ~$10 /month; you can save about ~16% if you purchase in 6 month intervals.  Unlike Unreal’s Engine, it’s royalty free and for about $120/year it’s more affordable than Unity3D (They tend to have a major release every year or two at an upgrade cost of $700 for pro, $700 for iOS pro, and $700 for Android Pro; although I only use iOS & Android Basic which are “free.”).

 

NAME: CRYENGINE

LANGUAGE: C++, Lua

SUPPORTED PLATFORMS: Windows ( Linux support coming soon )

PRICE: Subscription @ $10/month or ~$120/year; No royalties

NOTES: Includes source code!

 

NAME: UNREAL ENGINE

LANGUAGE: C++ (since Unreal 4, Epic switched from UnrealScript to C++)

SUPPORTED PLATFORMS: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, PS4, XBOX One

PRICE: Subscription @ $20/month + 5% royalties or ~$240/year + 5% royalties

NOTES: Includes source code!

 

NAME: Unity3D

LANGUAGE: C#, JavaScript, Boo

SUPPORTED PLATFORMS: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, XBOX 360,  XBOX ONE, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Playstation Vita, Browser

PRICE:  Pro $1500 or $75/month ( includes Windows, Mac, Linux, Web, iOS Basic, Android Basic, Windows Phone, BlackBerry )  Upgrades are ~$700 and generally come out every 1-2 years.  iOS and Android Pro are $1500 or $75/month each ( also an upgrade price of $700 each ).  Free version is available and supports Windows, Mac, Linux, Web browser, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry.

NOTES: No source code!  Has a massive community and is the current favorite among Indies.  Also has the Asset Store which allows developers to sell or purchase addons to increase functionality, 3D models, sound effects, music, etc for Unity.  Although the free version doesn’t have all the features of Pro, it’s certainly far from being crippled and supports mobile publishing!

 

These three game engines are a personal interest to me, there are of course other options such as Havok’s Project Anarchy or Garage Game’s Torque3D engine.  For me Garage Game’s really got the ball rolling for indie game development like what Ultima Online did for MMOs.  Neither was the first but certainly got the ball rolling.  However it was Unity3D and World of Warcraft that brought their respective fields to the masses in a gargantuan way.  As an agnostic developer who doesn’t marry software, programming languages, brands, etc, Unity is still the best solution for me ( supported platforms, large community, and the asset store are huge factors for me ).  Your mileage will vary and its better for the industry that we have multiple game engines/solutions to meet everyone’s varying criteria.  The competition that arises from each of these companies provides pressure in the game engine market resulting in more innovation. 

I think it’s awesome that Indies are a recognized entity and these professional tools which were so secretive when I was growing up are now available.

Tags: , ,
Posted in *News* Game Developing by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Free Game Developing Tools

microsoft_logo

Microsoft has been offering many of its products for free over the years, however these programs are not heavily advertised.  In fact, asking around, many of my peers were unaware of these programs.  The two programs I’ll be outlining here are BizSpark (for small startups) and DreamSpark (for students).

 

BizSpark is a free 3-year program that provides access to most of Microsoft’s software.  Anything you download in the 3-year period you can keep permanently.  You’ll need to have a website and an email with the website name in it; ie joe@awesomegames.com ( you can’t use yahoo, gmail, etc ).  It’s a fairly easy program to join with few restrictions ( ie: your startup must be  less than 5 years old, earns less than $1 million dollars a year… )  

 

Here are some of the free software available:

  • Visual Studio Ultimate / Premium / Team Foundation Server
  • Office Professional
  • Visio
  • Project Server
  • Project
  • System Center
  • SharePoint Server
  • Windows Server
  • Windows 8.1
  • SQL Server

 

DreamSpark is a program that supports technical education by providing access to Microsoft software for learning, teaching, and research purposes.  It’s mainly targeted to students and you can gain access by providing a university or college email address when signing up.  Most large and many small schools are eligible ( ie: both Jr. Colleges near my house were eligible ).  DreamSpark is completely free for students.

 

Here are some of the free software available:

  • Visual Studio Team Foundation
  • Team Explorer
  • Visual Studio Professional
  • Windows Server

They also provide free certifications and training modules.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Game Developing by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

New Unity Resources Available!

AI-Character

Last month Unity released their “new sample assets” in their Asset Store ( free of course! ).  Here are some of the highlights:

  • A new First Person Character
  • A new Third Person Character
  • A sample 2D Character
  • Camera Rigs
  • A sample Car
  • A sample Aircraft
  • A Cross Platform Input Example
  • A sample of AI
  • A Prototype Environment

 

A couple of my favorite 2013 Unite videos

 

Discusses strategies on getting a game to go viral. 

 

 

 

Discusses the life cycle and strategies that take place after a game is released.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Game Developing by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Torn Shot now available!

screenshot-1_960x640

Protect your friends! 

Play now through your browser for free and without registration!

“Take aim hero!  The world is at war and it needs your help!  Enter into Torn Shot, a world at war over whether or not machines should have the right to hold leadership positions.  Protect your friends and travel the world to find treasure, destroy enemies, and earn enough to get to Sky City to cast the deciding vote.  Each time you play the game, more of the story is revealed!”

 

android steampunkbackground01ChosenCharacterConcepts

Early concept art

Features:
————-

* 100% free!  No Ads, DLC, In game purchases, etc!

* Global Leader Board – Compare your horde of treasure with other heroes from around the world and across

platforms.

* Achievements System

* 4 modes of difficulty – you start on Easy and unlock the other modes ( Medium, Hard, Legendary ) when you play

a specific area over and over.

 

Torn Shot is a "reverse tower defense" game inspired by the classic game, "CrossBow."  It was developed in two months and with a team who is mostly made up of first time game developers.  Torn Shot is 100% free!  Free of ads, DLC, in game purchases, etc.  It’s currently available on the iOS, Android Marketplace, Web, .  It will be available soon in Apple’s App Store!  If you enjoy the game, please help us out and rate on the App Store(s)!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in *News* by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Demolitious v4.x Released!

demolitious_v4

Click the image to play through your browser!

It’s been a while since the last update for Demolitious.  Although it was released over 2 years ago, people around the world are still playing!  As mobile phones and tablets get better the UI system for Demolitious greatly suffered.  On a high resolution device the buttons were barely visible and the swipe mechanism was never very good.  Fast forward ahead and there are cool plugins for Unity such as NGUI (UI plugin) and Easy Touch (swipe/touch plugin).  Not only does this make the game many times over more optimize yielding a huge performance boost   I went through and ripped out the default Unity GUI code that has been there since Unity version 2.6 (currently Unity 4.2.2 is available).

As I was going through and integrating the plugins, I took this opportunity to do a massive clean up; mostly replacing code with new “tricks” that I’ve picked up after releasing the game.  It took about 7 straight days to complete and has already been submitted to the app stores.  If you haven’t played Demolitious before it’s a trajectory game similar to Scorched Earth, Angry Birds, and Worms.  Click on the screenshot above to play in your browser, or get it here:

Android Market Place

Apple App Store

 

Enjoy!

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in *News* by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Moga Pro Controller, Android, & Emulation

mogapro

Moga Pro Controller (w/Android Phone) $50

Up until two weeks ago I had an iPhone.  I first purchased one up when the 3g version was released and then later upgraded to 4, then 5.  I have had a few Android tablets but never switched my phone over.  My main problem with Android was the touch sensitivity of the screen.  There was always a slight lag when sliding, dragging, or pinch zooming the screen.  This later became known in my circle as, “Android lag”.  I tried new Android products regularly, but still couldn’t find one without this “touch” lag until the Galaxy S3 was released.  That was the first time I could see switching over but did I have a reason to?  I was perfectly happy with my iPhone; it was easy to find accessories and in my experience games generally came out on iOS before Android and was made with more of a custom fit due to less fragmentation on Apple’s side.  I’m completely against marrying brands so I will not hesitate to switch.  A few weeks ago using my Android tablet, I connected a PS3 controller to it and was able to play a variety of emulators!  The experience was so amazing that it became my reason to switch to Android from iPhone. 

After looking through different controller options for Android, I stumbled across the Moga Pro.  This thing is amazing!  It basically turns your phone into an Nvidia Shield

nvidia-shield-640x353

Nvidia Shield $300

Sure not all phones can match the specs of the Nvidia Shield but you don’t need to, to play some of the emulators.  I was planning to buy an Nvidia Shield until I decided to switch to an Android phone.  The Moga Pro has an adjustable clip that can even accommodate phablets.  It also comes with a foldup tablet stand which is extremely handy when you want to play on a larger screen.   Although the DPad is a little stiff, the controller performs beautifully! 

I’ve tested Moga Pro on the following emulators:

  • Nesoid
  • Snes9x EX+
  • Gearoid
  • Gensoid
  • MAME4droid Reloaded
  • ePSXe

 

Besides emulation, there are games specifically optimized for the Moga Pro, here are a few examples:

  • GTA 3 & GTA 3 Vice City
  • Max Payne
  • Crazy Taxi
  • Shadow Gun
Tags: , , ,
Posted in Technology by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

“Bro Dudes” Finished!

brodudes

Click to play through your browser! 

(No registration required!)

 

For the past 4 months we’ve been working hard on developing this game.  From start to end with a skeleton crew, we managed to pull it off and are very proud to bring it to you 100% free.  No annoying Ads or cheap shot DLC tact on to purposely incomplete games.  There are no registrations and no catches (seriously!).   You can play right now through your browser by clicking the image above and it’s also available at Apple’s App Store & Google’s Play Store.

 

Description:

Bro Dudes is a 2D platform shooter where you become a valiant Bro, on a quest to rescue the fair princess, err President’s dinner from the clutches of an evil dragon… um Ninjas.  You control the actions of a daring Bro, finding his way through the dangerous areas which has been populated with treacherous monsters and obstacles.  In the mysterious areas, around the beach, your odyssey continues against the awesome forces that oppose your efforts to reach the Drag… Ninja’s hideout.  Lead on Bro, your quest awaits!

One of the biggest challenges with 2D platformers on mobile devices are the touch controls.  During testing, the controls were the number one topic we received feedback on.  It seemed like everytime we adjusted the controls, some people would like the change, while others would prefer the controls without the new adjustment. It was becoming clear that touch controls make very poor dpad substitutes so we spent a lot of time developing a new approach for controls using the touch screen.

Using our new approach, the player is finally enpowered to customize their controls specifically to their personal preferences with great detail.  See our FAQs below for more details.

 

Features:

  • Free! -  Yes, really it’s free!  There are no ads or DLC to buy; the game is 100% complete as is.
  • 3 different ways to compete! – Challenge others from around the world and across multiple platforms on your Kill Death Ratio, Accuracy, and Speed Runs!
  • "If I go down, we all go down" Death – Ever die from an enemy that blows up after you kill them?  Us too.  Now instead of the enemy blowing up when it dies, you blow up when you’re killed!  +100 Retribution
  • Bullet power ups – Witness the amazing transformation of your bullets changing their color and suddenly becoming more powerful! … but look the same.
  • Easter eggs – "Got it!"
  • Metrics – Keeps track of your Kill Death Ratio, Accuracy, and Speed Run times; you can toggle your metrics using the Metrics Button located in the game menu

 

*** In order rank on the leader boards, you must complete the game and have a better score.

There are three leader boards in Bro Dudes.  

  • Killers – Ranked by your Kill/Death ratio (KDR); if you have 0 deaths you get +1 kill.
  • Snipers – Ranked by your Hit/Miss ration (HMR) aka Accuracy;  if you have 0 misses you get +1 hit.
  • Speed Runners – Ranked by how fast you complete the game.

 

User Interface:

 

OptionsMenu

Click the “Menu Button” to access the Leader Boards!

FAQs:

> Does this game have zombies?
Yes.

> That’s cool but zombies are boring… you guys should make them pirate zombies!
Not a question, but done!

 

> Can they be vampires too?
Vamperic Pirate Zombies… ok you got it!

 

> Why do the Vamperic Pirate Zombies sometimes walk in mid air without falling?
They give zero fracks about gravity.

 

> Why is this game so hard?
Retro games from this generation are generally considered more difficult than today’s "Everybody Wins!" games. 

 

> Why is this game so easy?
Because you’re the beeessssst arrrround!
 

> How long did this game take to develop?
4 months (March-June)

 

> Who are you guys?
We’re friends who love developing and playing games.  The team for Bro Dudes consists of 1 developer, 1 artist, and 1 musician.  However we’re lucky enough that a couple of other people dropped in to help with the sound effects.

 

> Why did you make this game for free? / Why don’t you sell it, have ads or charge for DLC?
We love developing and playing games!  So much so, yes we’d do it for free.  Yes if we can make a living off of it, even better.  We decided not to sell the game because we want everyone to play it.  Ads are too annoying and DLC didn’t fit our purpose for this game.

> You guys worked really hard and I really love the game, how can I help?
Very cool, we’re glad you enjoyed it!  We have a tip jar through Paypal on our website: indiegamesstudio.com.  The proceeds are a huge help to pay our monthly server fees, licensing fees, and 3rd party plugins. 

 

> The game is kind of short, what gives?

The game is design to be beaten very quickly; hopefully fast enough before it’s your turn in the line you’re standing in.

>How does this new control concept work?

Our new approach consists of two parts:

1) The type of control -  There are three types of controls:  8-way dpad, analog stick, and moving analog stick.  The moving analog stick is the same as the analog stick except that the center is set wherever you touch the screen.  This means that if your thumb leaves the screen and comes back down at a different location, then the "moving analog stick" will relocate it’s center to the new location.

2) Fine tuning the control – Although this will affect all three controls, the dpad is the most affected.  Since there are various sized fingers and preferences on how the dpad should "feel", we provide a slider bar to enable the player to custom design the "feel" of the controls specifically for them.

What does that mean?

If you’re shooting to the right, (i.e., pressing fire while touching dpad-right, but suddenly you want to shoot diagonally up and to the right) how far should you have to move your finger from dpad-right to dpad-diagonal up and right?  Some people prefer to move their finger a very small amount while others want to move a slightly longer distance. So lets say you have big thumbs, you might not have as much control when the distance is too short, so you end up toggling between shooting right and diagonally up and right.  Or maybe if you have smaller thumbs, the distance may be too long and you may not shoot diagonally up and right when you want to. 

The slider bar adjusts the distance between directions, such as right and diagonally up and right, as well as change the size of the image of the control.  The larger the image, the greater the distance your finger travels to go from right to diagonal up and right.  Conversely, the smaller the image, the less distance your finger travels to go from right to diagonal up and right.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Game Developing by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Microsoft’s DRM-less Box: XBox One

Kinect-watching

 

After the reveal of XBox One it left me like many others asking, “Yea so what about the games?”  Microsoft in it’s arrogance, demoed their new machine as an upgraded Roku box which has an App that plays games rather than a next generation game console.   However adding fuel to the fire it’s rumored to have the following functionalities:

 

  • Always on Kinect:
    • Even when the system is off.  Microsoft’s claim is so it can accept voice commands, however it can also measure and record your facial & thermal levels of your responses to ads and commercials.  This information is valuable and can be used against the consumer or sold off to interested 3rd parties.  DRM may be integrated in such a way so that if the account holder(s) aren’t present it may not let you play the game, watch a movie, etc.   If you attempt to cover the Kinect or disconnect it, it’ll simple pause the game.  Does the next generation of gaming experience really need this?  Do consumers really want this?  Did George Orwell warning about the government cause our attention to solely focus on “Big Brother”, while another, potentially more dangerous threat grew into what we know as Corporations?  (Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Samsung) 

  • Always on Internet:
    • From what I’ve read Microsoft hasn’t been very clear on this.  Which suggests to me,  semantics aside, will need to be always online in some sense of the word.  What does that mean?  Perhaps it’ll only need to be “always online” when you play a game or something.  Again it’ll be a matter of semantics here but what the problem as I see it is asking, “Will we need an internet connection to play games new or used?” 

 

  • Used Games:
    • For the life of me I have no idea why the console manufacturer would want to put themselves in the line of fire other than absolute greed.  They should have put the responsibility of this on the developers, which they probably will end up doing.  However for now, they’ve been really vocal about not allowing you to share games with your buddies unless they pay the full price.  EA tried to get people to pay extra money to play used games but not only did that fail miserably they finally decided to pull the plug on that idea.  Eventually, like the PC game market, console games will migrate to digital stores and the physical format will be gone, this by itself will end the used game market and no one will have to take fire for it.  Many of us use Steam, GoG, Green Man Gaming (they offer digital trade-ins), as well App stores for our mobile devices with little complaint about the absence of a “Used App Store.”

 

  • No Backwards Compatibility:
    • Microsoft has a lot of dumbshits making horrible decisions for them.  Although regular XBox 360 games are not playable out of the box, they could have created an emulator for the Arcade games.  Microsoft decided against that too and rather just have you re-buy your whole collection again…. and again… and again.     

 

The future of gaming?  If these rumors are true then I really hope this console is just another failure from Microsoft.  As a technology agnostic individual who is repulsed by fan boys,  I believe the future of gaming is very bright.  I often read articles claiming that PC or console gaming is dying or dead (due to each other or casual Facebook/phone/tablet gaming) and this is very easily proven inaccurate.  PC games won’t die because PCs are still very much needed.   We need PCs to create software & hardware.  Coding on a tablet would be a nightmare even with an external keyboard compared to PC.  PC gaming is great because it doesn’t suffer from the intentionally created backwards compatibility problems that exist on consoles.  Which is why if Sony follows through with things like used game DRM then I think it’ll eventually push console people to PC gaming.  However they won’t need to buy a standalone PC to play games, they can buy PC gaming consoles that connect to their TV, like Valve’s Steam Box

See?  We still need PCs.  And where there are PCs, there will be games.

That means consoles are dying right?  No.  Even if consoles like XBox One, PS4, and Wii U end up alienating their players to the point where they decide to walk, we’ll see a number of new consoles try to take their place (this is capitalism because a market will exist and therefor an opportunity to make money despite the existence of casual phone/tablet gamers); most likely through KickStarter.  Take heart, whether it’s a handheld like the Nvidia Shield, a PC gaming box like the Steam Box, or a completely new system like the Ouya, gaming isn’t going away on PC or consoles.

 

Update 06-19-2013 Microsoft Removes DRM:

Microsoft announced today the DRM will be removed from the Xbox One.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.  As we approach the release date, I predict they’ll drop the mandatory Kinect always on “feature.”  Here it is from Microsoft’s Don Mattrick (ref: Kotaku ):

 

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Technology by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Game Developing: Bro Dudes

brodudes_screenshot

Bro Dudes the most bro’est game out there!

Bro Dudes is a 2D platform shooter.  Think Contra, references to Bad Dudes, mash together with large amounts of Bros and Dudes.  At the time of this writing the game has been in development for about month and is still in the early stages.  Although it’s running on Web, PC/Mac/Linux, and mobile (iOS & Android), it has yet to be released.  The first level which is still under some development, can be played in the browser.  Things to note about the demo:

  1. This game is really hard!  Seriously, if you haven’t played a retro shooter before or are out of practice, brace yourself.
  2. The browser version is compatible with an xbox controller (possibly others in the future).  Just plug in, turn on, and reload the page; you should be good to go.
  3. Bro Dudes can be played through most browsers and at full screen (right click in the game window)

Here are some of the features:

  1. Shoot in multiple directions
  2. If the action gets too intense, Bro can slow down time (Dying too much?  Try using this more…)
  3. Retribution.  Ever get frustrated when you die or when an enemy dies and explodes killing you?  Yea us too…  When you die you will explode putting the enemies on the run.  Why this feature?  Screw ‘em, that’s why!
  4. OMG zombies are popular?  Pirates too?  Vampires … kinda?  What about a zombie pirate that might also be a vampire if you’re into it?  Yea we got that.
  5. Sweet visuals, an awesome sound track, with cool sound effects! 

 

More to come!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Game Developing by Jordan Thompson. No Comments

Technology: Oculus Rift

oculusrift

Waiting in line to try the Oculus Rift at GDC 2013 (btw.. it took 1 hour)

 

What is it?

Simply put it’s a virtual reality headset, called Oculus Rift.  Its like a big ski mask that goes over your eyes and completely seals them in from the outside.  Unlike glasses which have a space between your eyeballs and the lens, allowing you to see the real world through the sides,  the headset covers your eye region, sealing your eyes in; in fact you can’t see the outside world at all.  This ultimately is a big factor of making you feel like you’re in the game!

 

How can I get one?

If you’re  a developer you can pre-order one from Oculus for $300; the expected ship date is May 2013 (roughly a month away!).   Note that the developer’s version is more of a prototype and the consumer version will be much better.  However if you have to have it now and have $300 to burn, then grab the developer’s version.  I asked and even prodded but wasn’t given a clear answer to when the consumer version will be released.  They couldn’t even lock down a year, however they did hint and said, 2013 will probably not happen.  Possibly, if everything goes without a hitch we may see a release in 2014 but 2015 is also a possibility.   I suppose it means if we’re lucky maybe a year or two.

 

Did it live up to their claims?

Believe the hype!  At first I thought the VR system would take over the “Look” control of the game but for the demo they used Hawken which is a mechwarrior-type game and you’re in the cockpit.  They handed me an Xbox controller hooked up to a PC and it had the standard FPS controls.  However whether I walk forward or strafe, at any time I can look with my head behind and on the sides of me.  It became really intense when I was walking straight pass a wall and caught a mech waiting on the side in my peripheral; so without having to move or change the direction of the mech I instinctively turned my head to confirm an enemy and my hands took over to control my mech so I can fire on him.  It happened very quickly and without forethought.  Just reflexes.  At that point, I realized I was in the game.  The demonstrator asked me to activate my hover so I can fly and as I did I looked down and peeked past my cockpit to see the ground getting smaller.  When I did that I felt vertigo or the feeling in a rollercoaster.  My body thought I was in danger and I felt a little tightness.  The demonstrator then asked me to free fall from atop of a sky scrapper and again I felt the vertigo and for me I really felt like I was there.  Understandably your reactions will vary and even if you have the same reaction as I did your body would eventually become used to it as you play more and more.

 

Any downsides?

This is a developer’s version which in this case is more of a prototype.  The takeaway here is the concept of having virtual reality which relies on head tracking.  The head tracking was spot on however some people complained that it blurred a little whenever they moved their head.  I saw this but I was more interested in running around in the world that It became invisible to me.  Only when I stopped and looked for it, I saw it.  The other complaint was the low resolution; it’s 720p which isn’t that bad since most console games are playing at 720p anyways.   I get it you paid $500 for a video card blah blah blah, Oculus said they hope to fix these issues for the consumer version, however even as is I’m sold.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Technology by Jordan Thompson. No Comments