Released: The House on Holland Hill

After two weeks of intermittent development, I finished my gamejam game (late) last sunday! I’ve polished up a few bits since then, and aside from the save system that doesn’t work yet, it’s become a pretty solid offering. And more tweaks and polish are probably coming in the next few weeks.

You can download the game from https://hedgefield.itch.io/hollandhill. Let me know what you thought of it if you play it!

Live from the Wizard Jam front, episode #2

Hey there! This is my second missive from the WJ4 front – read the first one here.

I spent last weekend finalizing the geometry so I could turn it into a prefab and use it across all scenes. It mostly came down to adding some final furniture and building out the surrounding terrain and forest. About halfway through, I realized I was putting way too much effort into it, and it served its purpose just fine the way it was. So I packaged it all up and finally started the first story scene.

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Unfortunately, it turned out that Adventure Creator was not 100% foolproof in turning everything into a prefab. The common interactions (opening and closing all the doors in the house etc) were especially dire; they turned up blank after being imported into a new scene, so I had to go into each of the associated objects in a new scene and hook them back up. Not great. Lost a lot of time troubleshooting that. But in the end I had a basic scene that I could duplicate, a sort of prefab if you will, so at least I could now set it and forget it.

Mid-week I finally had some time to dedicate to the game again and I set up the first scene’s logic, which went pretty quickly. That offered some hope for the remaining days. I got started on character sprites too. I wanted to try a more detailed style with thinner lines, like Californium, but in the interest of time I went with my go-to art style. I’ll fix that in post, as they say.

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Once I got them in the game and had a few expressions to play with, things really started to come together. I also made a menu that displays which delivery you are embarking on, like the splash screen for the days in Firewatch. Then it was just a matter of knocking out more scenes and more character sprites. Which I did on friday.

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I skipped after-hour drinks at the office to get into THE ZONE, and by midnight I had set up about half of the game. Granted, those scenes were the easiest to make and contain very little pithy gameplay, but it was nice to be able to punch those out real quick. I might still make the sunday night deadline with something half decent! It doesn’t help that there are a national holiday and a concert in-between me and that moment though, but oh well…

 

Live from the Wizard Jam front, episode #1

Hey there dear reader!

The last time I did a live devlog was when I was making 15 Minutes, my 24 parody game. And that was back in 2011! I’ve moved on to Unity since then and made a bunch of games, but I don’t often participate in jams. The last time was ol’ Wizard Jam 1, the Idle Thumbs community game jam. But this time around the planets and stars aligned and I had enough time and a good idea, so I’m participating in Wizard Jam 4.

I got a bit of a late start as I was at a conference on the island of Texel last weekend, but I managed to catch up in the free moments throughout the week.

The concept

A few weeks ago I had a dream. In it -among other things- I biked to a villa in the forest and met the man of the house and his maid. I don’t know why, but when I woke up that image stuck with me. I wanted to go to that place and look around more. So, in keeping with me basing games on dreams, I thought it would be a nice thing to make for this jam.

The groundwork

I wrote out some details about the game and its events in the past week, so I had enough to jump right into Unity. I decided to use my trusty Adventure Creator plugin, and since I’m not very good with 3D modeling I’m going for a 3D world/2D characters style like The Tell-Tale Heart / Californium / Trackless.

The player character will be a pizza delivery guy, so the first thing I wanted to get was a little scooter, and I found the perfect one on the Asset Store. And together with a first-person character I was testing last week I had the basics of the first scene. Next was greyboxing the essential geometry. I used assets from the Stylized Jungle Pack I purchased for Reconquista in combination with just regular grey cubes.

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Then I started looking for forest villa reference photos.

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This gave me the idea to add a driveway and carport around the side of the house – a nice hidden area you’ll only stumble upon if you go snooping around. And of course, a carport isn’t complete without a car. Then I got a little carried away… but hey at least this confirms the interaction system works!

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I fiddled with the camera some more after that. It was really jittery, so I imported the First Person Drifter Controller, a neat little plugin I keep around for prototyping these kinds of games, and pulled the mouse smoothing script out of it to integrate with my player prefab. The result is really smooth!

Next was setting up the interaction system and UI, and I hollowed out the cube I had used to represent the house. I built some rooms and a glass facade, and then I really needed furniture. While browsing the Unity Asset Store I found some really great assets by OneSquareFoot. Their furniture mega pack was perfect to furnish the house with. And a nice opportunity to re-enact the Matrix.

I tried a few interior layouts and eventually settled on something that felt logical and looked good. Then I moved the sun a few degrees so that it would shine on the terrace for a longer period of time each day, justifying the reason the house was built at this angle. Would that I had such powers in real life.

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I was getting antsy to try the character style so I added a quick 2D guy. I should really work on the gameplay a bit at this point, but I wanted to have the house ready so I can turn it into a prefab and use it across all scenes without cutting into my own fingers later. So I spent some time adding collision to the interior, interactive doors, a staircase into the cellar, curtains, outside lights that react to motion and a functional doorbell that summons the man of the house. Just a bit more sprucing up and it should be ready to go.

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Reconquista 2.0 – revising a released game

When you’re making games on your own, finishing a project is already a pretty big milestone. But chances are you had to cut some corners to get it done. There are usually a few features that fall by the wayside depending on time, energy, or technical complexity. But how do you decide to either write off those ideas or keep them stored away for a potential version 2.0?

Since Reconquista was my first 3D game, I had to cut a lot of corners, so when I finished v1.0 I did not feel fulfilled. There wasn’t much to do outside of make a beeline for the temple, and the enemy AI was pretty rudimentary – it didn’t really reward exploration or experimentation. So when I released the game, I knew that I would someday revisit the game design. And I did.

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I came back for three reasons; I wanted to:

Continue reading “Reconquista 2.0 – revising a released game”

By the numbers

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The demo for Last Voyage of the Orlova has been running for two weeks in a corner of VondelCS, and in that time Unity Analytics has been quietly tracking some key events in the game. Here’s a quick breakdown of those numbers:

It’s hard to say exactly how many people played the game, but I know 107 made it through the first few minutes and fired up the lighthouse.

77 hopefuls then entered the derelict ship floating through the mist.

41 of them figured out how to open the engineering deck and end the lockdown.

35 then made it to the front deck and found the axe.

They swung that axe 708 times, altogether. Wowzers.

And finally, 23 hardcore problem-solvers made it to the end of the demo.

These numbers are pretty impressive considering it’s running on an unattended fully-functional windows machine in some cafe hallway, away from any kind of gaming expo context, and without any strong tutorial content. It also shows that I could do some stronger foreshadowing in certain areas, but it might as well be that people had to move on or weren’t invested enough to explore further.

All in all, I’m glad I added the analytics in last-minute.