Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The rise of roguelikes

Roguelike is a game genre featuring semi random procedural level generation, permanent death, events, often turn based gameplay, and sometimes progression between each session. They have become substantially popular in the past few years.

Some of my favorites include these:

Faster Than Light

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Dungelot 2

Don't Starve

Cardinal Quest 2

Play sessions for these tend to average about an hour. There is a strong incentive to return and play again, since doing well in a session can lead to bonuses and permanently unlocked features.

I have really gravitated towards games like these. The incredible balance of the difficulty curves, the randomness, the thrill of progress.

Come to think about it, this style of game has been around for a while, perhaps just labeled as action or adventure rather than something more specific. For example, my first exposure to roguelikes was this classic gem for Sega Genesis called ToeJam & Earl:

ToeJam & Earl (image from vg247.com)

Albeit, features lives instead of strict permanent death.

My attempts to pursue this kind of direction as a designer have only moderately succeeded at best. For example, Demons Down Under was intended to be a challenging and unforgiving roguelike; eventually it was reduced to a more casual design to conserve time and widen the appeal to the larger casual gaming crowd on the web. It was still successful, just not what I had in mind. I notice my current zombie defense project following a similar direction towards casual design.

It can be easy to neglect some aspect of game development in promotion of another. Design, tech, art. I recall a decade ago, only stressing tech and programming. My games were more tech demos than anything. Afterwards came traditional and digital art, which led me to Flash game development. Now I want to stress design later this year, prioritizing it before the other two. I picked up this book by Jesse Schell on the Art of Game Design which covers a lot of excellent material. I call it the bible of game design.

I'm going to heavily stress usage of the book for the upcoming Ludum Dare game jam in April.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Corona SDK is now FREE!

The engine I use for mobile apps just became free! At least for all the essential features, such as in-app purchases, that used to cost an annual subscription in the hundreds of dollars.

As announced at GDC, Corona Labs is planning to expand its engine by building executables for the PC and Mac desktop gaming space. Well.. it's about time..?! The simulator already runs on both operating systems, so I can't imagine it being that much of an effort to build executables for these two. If additionally it could build for HTML5, then it would be very difficult for me to justify using anything else.

This is a very competitive year for mobile engine technology. Epic recently announced that Unreal Engine 4 is now "free" for 5% gross revenues. Meanwhile the personal edition of the recently announced Unity 5 is free with fair limitations.

Most likely I will opt for Unity this year, seeing that more and more web gaming portals are supporting it. Flash will continue to be the more popular option for the web, at least for the next five years. I will continue using it for game jams and art assets.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Closer to the finish line

My latest mobile game "Zombie Situation 2" is coming along nicely! I am eagerly finishing up the last pieces, finalizing each system, and churning out all the remaining content.

It turned out to be a lot of content, from weapons, enemies, allies, equipment, etc. I am satisfied with the art and the game itself plays very smoothly.

Meanwhile Defend Your Nuts 2 will be coming to mobile as well. The game originally sponsored by Nickelodeon-Addicting Games is being transferred to Defy Media (remaining under Viacom). It will be relaunched with additional features and ported in the coming weeks.

It's going to be a busy month!