Category Archives: experiences
Our intrepid Jennifer Scheurle and Leigh Harris have returned from PAX West, and discuss their exploits and super fun times on the latest episode of the Podcast in Space.
For those who couldn’t attend Game Connect Asia-Pacific this year, the Game Design Challenge asks a selection of designers to take to the stage and pitch a game idea based on a theme which was revealed one month earlier. This year, Flat Earth’s Leigh Harris took part and came runner up to Luke Muscat (of Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride and Land Sliders fame). It was the first time anyone from Flat Earth had spoken at GCAP.
The theme for the Game Design Challenge this year was ‘Virtual Smell’. Each participant had just 8 minutes to try and pitch a game idea based around the notion of a hypothetical peripheral which could project small particles. The peripheral could be any type, transmit the smells in any way, and be for any platform.
Take a look at what Leigh came up with!
We received an email from a fan recently which was simply a thank you note to us for not caving and going freemium. We talk about this stuff constantly behind the scenes, but at the end of the day it’s emails like this (there are a great many which have similar themes) which make us certain we made the right decision. Perhaps some of our games in future will contain DLC or expansion packs or the like, but for TownCraft we feel we made the right choice.
Thanks so much to Carter for sending the email and for giving us permission to blog about it.
I’m finally spending time with Town Craft (purchased it for iPad a while ago). I have been playing on my iPhone, though I’m wondering if it would be easier with the bigger screen. Portability vs screen size – always a tough choice! Anyway, I wanted to thank you for making a great game with no in-app purchases and for continuing to support it.
As an “old school gamer” (you know, the kind who spent hours perfecting his farm on Harvest Moon long before Facebook even existed), I am so disappointed that the industry has degraded to the point that IAP-driven “games” dominate the mobile market (referring to the ones that are essentially dressed up slot machines, not the ones that give a short trial and sell the full game via IAP). I so often read unfair negative comments about games like this one. “How can they charge $4.99?!? The game should be free or MAYBE $.99!” … the most common sentiments. It’s as if they expect developers to work for free, somehow magically supporting their families and finding fulfillment with no financial gain. They prefer to support unethical companies that prey on the obsessive traits of certain gamers. Shameful.
Every time I find a solid app – especially a game – with no or limited IAP’s, I appreciate just how much risk those developers have taken, how much income they have sacrificed in order to create great games for the rest of us, and how hard it is for them to continue to support these games in such a freemium-driven market. So it’s important that I take a few minutes to let you guys know that I’m enjoying your game, I appreciate your sacrifices, and I’m rooting for developers like you. I hope you’re able to continue creating great games like Town Craft. As long as you’re making them, I will continue supporting them.
So Yawen Song showed up to the Aurora hotel for the last IGDA Beer and Pixels night, where he interviewed a bunch of people and got to know a whole heap of indie game developers from the Sydney scene.
He later came out an interviewed us at the studio in Ultimo, and has put together a great little 12 minute documentary on YouTube which includes Paul Sztajer from See Through Studios, Dan Graf from Halfbrick and Rebecca Fernandez from the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, amongst others.
It’s a cool little movie which does give you a good impression of what the Sydney teams are doing and why they do the things they do.
Check it out if you’re interested in indie game development at all…
A little over a year ago, or about 3-4 months into the development of my first game, I fell into a very deep depression for which I have since been on medication and in and out of therapy. It’s entirely possible that, given my previous career involved promoting work by others, I’d had distance enough from that work not to let the stress (and there was indeed much stress) get to me. Although with depression of any kind, focusing on one factor (or even external factors at all) isn’t exactly healthy, so I only bring up the work situation because it’s pertinent to my experience here.
Suffice to say, it’s been more and more difficult with each passing month to keep my head up high or down and working, depending on where it needs to be, and I feel it’s been detrimental to the project, the team and to myself in stages.
I should stress that these are stages I’ve identified in my experience only, and I certainly don’t suggest that these are uniform and are felt in the same way by everyone going through depression of any kind.
Not quite as clear cut as the simple name suggests, I’ve experienced denial of two things primarily: that I actually have been suffering from depression, and that I am actually pursuing a creative endeavour and really putting myself out there. Within the comfort of that denial, I was able to spend many months still being productive, and with productivity comes no need to address the problem.
So for the last day or so I’ve had my face buried in pages and pages of numbers working out our economic system. It has that all too familiar feeling which makes me feel like I’m ever so slightly wasting my time. But it’s very much my own fault, and the fault of the ambition of our project in general (which, I feel EVERYONE involved is starting to realise now that we’re nearing the game’s end).
You see, our game involves a mechanic whereby you craft items, build buildings, hire NPCs, trade, sell and more.
Where this becomes a problem is that if I find out that the way I’m currently having people craft an axe is no longer relevant or doesn’t make sense and decide to change it – a LOT has to change with that.
For starters it often happens that some other item in the game has its crafting recipe infringed upon by the change and I need to find another way to make that work.
Then there’s the value of objects, which changes based on how complex the item is, what prerequisite things were needed to create it from a technological standpoint, and of course what components the item is made out of.
When I was a youngling and wasn’t playing purely action-oriented games, I tended towards games which let me build something.
Creating something from very little was a hugely rewarding experience for me, but I always had trouble reconciling the binary objectives of aesthetically pleasing creations and efficient ones.
So much so, in fact, that once the two became mutually incompatible in RTS games, I stopped playing them.
In Age of Empires, the enemy would descend upon my hallowed halls, their majestic facades sending a symbol to all the lands that herein lies the greatest empire the world has ever known. The daunting walls housed but a portion of my available troops – a handful of archers manned the gates.
My message was clear – these walls speak for themselves. Approach and face the wrath my lack of visible army implies! (It’s worse still when you have to do it in Stronghold. So little space inside the castle walls! So much need for farmland! –Rohan)
At this point, quaking with fear, the enemy would march on my gates only to find…. that those few archers were in fact my army because I’d essentially been playing Sim City inside the walls and had a magnificently crafted and perfectly symmetrical city properly divided into districts.
Ask any gamer to think of a particularly fond experience had while gaming, and you’ll probably find yourself seeing a slightly-curled smile and a wistful look in their eyes. Games can produce an intensely personal experience that, much as I love films, books or television series’, can only otherwise be matched by real life experiences. As the gamer tells you about the time they desperately escaped death at the hands of a Deathclaw in Fallout or the time they accidentally took out their best friend in a friendly-fire accident in Counter-Strike, it’s worth thinking about what created these experiences.
A truly great game might create a middling experience for some players, and meanwhile a bug-ridden ill-balanced game might create the opportunity for a perfect moment that someone will be repeating drunk at parties until they die. Identifying just what made these moments work (or not) for yourself and for other players is a difficult thing to do, but it’s the most useful and rewarding thing to do when you’re designing a game. What experiences am I potentially offering the player? What can she get out of this game that I intend her to, and what kind of things might she experience that I won’t intend?
As a way to try and think about our own design, I’m starting a new project: hyper-mega-over-analysing my own favourite game experiences, to try and figure out how (and why) they happened. How much of it was intent and writing by the designer, and how much was me being in the right headspace and situation?
I’m going to start with Lightspeed, a highly underrated space trading game. In this game you command a space cruiser sent by the Earth to make a sector in space safe for the settler ships which are following you. How you do this is up to you – will you wipe out the alien threats, make peace with them, or some combination of the two? What about finding resources and a habitable planet? Will you take those by force, or take the more honourable route?
Being brought up in Star Trek of the Next Generation variety, I naturally found myself going all ‘Captain Picard’ on their bad selves, making peace and brokering deals until I finally found myself unable to reach a satisfactory deal with one particular race.
They weren’t a common species – in fact they seemed to have just the one star system under their control. But they refused to make peace, and I was running out of options. After a carefully infused cup of Earl Grey, I gave in and readied for war.
It took me hours to figure out how to defeat them – they were stubborn, powerful and well-defended. After numerous failed attempts and more blown up fighters than the Battle of Britain, I finally piloted the remote kamikaze that destroyed the space station… the system was mine.
I had never been so pleased with myself. The most difficult enemy I’d ever faced, and I’d defeated them. I paused the game (it was late at night) and had a victory coffee.
With this out of the way, I went back to my computer and decided to inspect the spoils. I launched a probe and scanned the system. To my delight I found the missing resources I was short on, but then something occurred to me – launching a probe was the same thing I’d done (slamming the ‘p’ button) to initiate communication with this now-extinct alien species.
I would never see that pixelated ambassador again. At least, not in this specific game.
I’d wiped out a whole species.
Maybe it was the lateness of the hour, the fact that it came on the back of the elation of defeating a difficult opponent, but for whatever reason, this thought disturbed me in a way I didn’t expected. I saved game and went to bed, pondering what I’d done as I slept.
This kind of subject matter has been dealt with in games a great deal both before and since, but usually with great intent and little subtly.
There is something incredibly important about providing the tools and the environment to make a player think carefully about the consequences of her actions, without feeling in any way manipulated or like the experienced was artificially created by the game’s writers.
This experience was mine, both in making and in feeling, and it has stayed with me for over 15 years now as a result.