Mar
08

EXTREME FISHING for Android released!

Get it on Google Play

Extreme Fishing is now released for Android on Google Play (and Amazon Store soon)! Extreme Fishing was originally created for Mini Ludum Dare #24 by me and João Zanini. This new version for Android has new content, better gameplay, improved controls for mobile and Google Play integration. Challenge your friends on the leaderboards and conquer the achievements! It’s also free, so download it right now for your Android smartphones!

If you don’t have an Android, however, you can still play the original version for Windows for free: DOWNLOAD NOW!

Feb
05

Game Dissection: Flappy Bird

You’ve probably heard about it already. “Flappy Bird” appeared so suddenly, and so suddenly everyone was playing it. It’s known for it’s brutal difficulty (at some point it was even compared to Dark Souls!) and simplistic gameplay. I first heard about it from this review that was posted and got some attention in Reddit. After trying it out myself, I’ve found some interesting characteristics under its sadistic fundamentals, which I’d like to share with you game design enthusiasts.

What the heck is a Flappy Bird?

Flappy Bird is a mobile game developed by .GEARS Studio available for Android and iPhone. It seems that they’re slightly different (the iPhone version has a pause button, for instance), but are essentially the same. That being said, I played the Android version, and this dissection was written based on that version.

The game is very simple: you control a bird by tapping on the screen, causing it to flap its wings and hopefully remaining airborne for a short while. Touch anything and you’re dead. You’ll need to go through a series of Mario Bros-esque pipes while trying to avoid the slightest contact with them. Every time you pass a pipe you gain one point. Accumulate enough points and you might earn a medal and bragging rights on the leaderboards. That’s it. That’s the whole game.

Formula of the Devil

Behind the simple and definitely unoriginal mechanics, there’s a few design decisions that makes the experience… charming in its own way. You could say that those decisions are what sets Flappy Bird apart from the rest.

  1. It’s accessible. Flappy Bird doesn’t put much between you and the action. There’s no complicated controls, and you don’t need to go through a lengthy tutorial in order to learn how to play. The pixel art graphics are cute and simple and they don’t really grab your attention, so you’re able to focus on the gameplay itself.
  2. It’s unforgiving. Touch anything and your voyage is over, see you space cowboy. There’s no powerups, no 1-ups, no health. You only have your skills to depend on. Making contact with anything solid will result in death. Fortunately, your hitbox is pixel perfect. When you’re dead, it’s because you fucked up. Start all over again.
  3. It’s fair. The game won’t cheat on you. Even though the obstacles are generated randomly, all the factors as the bird velocity, flap height, hitbox size, gravity and space between pipes and passages are balanced in such a way that every scenario is possible to go through, given you have the necessary skills.
  4. No difficulty curve. This is one of the most interesting points in my opinion. The game starts at a certain difficulty, and as that it remains for the rest of the game. The challenge doesn’t change at all during a run, so the first point is as difficult to achieve as the 100th. This is uncommon in games, as generally games are designed with an increasing difficulty so players will have time to hone their skills and be put against more elaborated challenges – the so-called balanced game flow.
  5. It’s an endurance game. After all it boils down to this. Flappy Bird is an endurance challenge. Once you learn how to get through the pipes it’s easy to repeat the feat, but you’re fighting against your own mind to keep your focus on the game. You’re trying to keep your rhythm and composure to have the necessary reaction time to either flap or dive through the air to reach the passage between the pipes. The game, however, is not doing much to keep you from progressing, because the difficulty doesn’t change during the play. After you understand the game, the pipes aren’t your enemies anymore. You’re your own enemy.

Show Me Your Moves

Flappy Bird doesn’t have any rewards. In a way, it is not different from the old arcade games. There’s no narrative to be followed, no final boss to be fought and no glorious ending to be watched. Technically, there’s no reason one would play it more than once or twice. Except, of course, because people are of a competitive nature.

The game quickly spread like a virus, not because of its originality or its guerrilla marketing strategy (it didn’t had any of those things). The game became this popular because it’s difficult, although it doesn’t look like it. People tend to underestimate the difficulty of the task and overestimate one’s own abilities, and specially considering how familiar and ordinary it looks compared to our previous experiences, you could assume you’d be able to beat it as well. Humans are competitive, so when you see a game like Flappy Bird being described as frustratingly hard, you’re tempted to try (the game is free, after all), and you may feel compelled to challenge your friends to try it themselves, and so it spreads through the network.

The problem here is that because there’s a lack of rewards, the game’s longevity is as good as the players own competitiveness. By themselves, the players aren’t likely to continue playing unless there’s a social motivator. Once a set of competing players (e.g. you and your friends) have mastered the game mechanics (which is not that difficult to do at all), it becomes a matter of who is willing to play the longest. Because the score is directly proportional to the play length, when this set of players reaches a median play length, weaker players will lose the interest and drop out, and the top players will soon follow for the lack of competition. Because of this, even though Flappy Bird is seeing a fast rise in popularity now, it most likely won’t last long.

My reward is a white circle

My reward is a white circle

Piou Piou

Flappy Bird got so many attention that there are many clones appearing in the market already, but it seems that Flappy Bird is a clone itself of a game called Piou Piou, created by Zanorg. It’s hard to determine what’s a clone and what isn’t nowadays, and this is a debate that happens every so often between developers. I’m not here to defend or oppose the practice (although I really dislike it), but assuming that Flappy Bird is in fact a clone of Piou Piou, I want to discuss why one got this popular while the other hasn’t.

Not as frustrating as Flappy Bird

Not as frustrating as Flappy Bird

At first glance, both games share several similarities, mainly aesthetically speaking. They both features a big-lipped bird as a main character, avoiding tall obstacles (cactus in PP, pipe in FB) and generally flapping its way in a notably similar fashion. But there are some differences. First of all, Flappy Bird is a game of pure skill, no luck involved. Piou Piou, on the other hand, has several elements that may contribute or undermine the player success.

Piou Piou has items that helps the player in scoring, like the invincibility star and the cacti remover, and also items that makes it harder for the player, as the burger and the raindrops. Because of that, the gameplay differs a lot between them. In Piou Piou, your experience and aptitude may help you in scoring, but luck could give a completely unskilled player a huge advantage. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that you get several stars consecutively, largely increasing your score. Thus, the score then has no relation to how skilled the player is or how long he has played. Not only that, but Piou Piou is also more forgiving, so touching obstacles won’t kill you instantly, and it doesn’t seem to try to make every obstacle passable without touching.

Does that mean Flappy Bird is a better or a worse game than Piou Piou? Not really. They differ so much that the gameplay experience is totally distinct. However, in my opinion at least, Piou Piou “fails” in that it’s too generic. There are many games with the same premise, and Piou Piou doesn’t bring much novelty to the genre to set it apart from the rest. Flappy Bird, on the other hand, goes bold by appealing to a more hardcore niche while using a casual game premise, hiding its sadistic nature with a cute retro art style. For that I must give credit to Flappy Bird. I believe, though, that the fad will fade eventually.

Jan
23

Full Time Indie!!

I’m now working as a full time indie. Hurray me!

This is something I’ve planned to do for a long time, and due to circustances I felt this was a good moment to step back from my daily job and finally get a degree. It wasn’t a decision made on a whim, of course – I’ve been preparing for this. But still, it would be impossible for me to work and study at the same time, so I left my job, leaving my day free for exciting game development activities. I am still transitioning to this new routine, and I have yet to actually start developing something. I plan to attend the Global Game Jam this weekend. After that… well, I still need to decide what to do. So many possibilities, so many time!

Aug
21

Winter is coming! No wait…

Ludum Dare #27 is coming this weekend! I’m really hyped, as it’s been a while since I’ve participated seriously, and this time a whole bunch of people is gathering with me to participate. Really exciting!
See you guys at #ludumdare @ irc.afternet.org! Good luck!

Mar
27

Why Ludum Dare is Awesome and Why You Should Join It

I’ve started programming back when I was 10 years old, messing with Visual Basic and Delphi, and immediately my coding efforts turned to game development. At that time, indie games weren’t as popular as nowadays, and finding a place was difficult, specially with my 1o-year-old sociability and terrible English speaking skills. I eventually found Game Maker and the GMC forums, and for a long time that was my main point of interaction with other game dev hobbyists. And well, if you know GMC, you probably understand that it’s not the best place to hone your game developing skills.

Fast-forward to 2009. I’ve started many game projects over those years and I had yet to release anything finished yet. And as I started working on IBM, time for coding became a rarity and I started getting distanced from game development. On the second half of 2009 I entered university, and I started making games again (where I made Batalha Otaku with other students). Then in 2010 Minecraft exploded and got insanely famous. I, too, got hooked and amazed with Minecraft and Notch’s success. More importantly, I got really motivated to make indie games. And then, by chance, I found about Ludum Dare on his old personal page.

I got interested, but was reluctant at first. Making games in 48 hours? Dude, I’ve been trying to make games for years without success. I started to chat with people on #ludumdare IRC channel, trying to understand the whole idea of making games in such short time. The people on the IRC were very helpful and receptive, and I decided I’d join. Doesn’t matter if I’d have a finished game at the end or not, I just wanted to try and see if I could do it. The experience by itself would be rewarding, I was sure of it.

Then, Ludum Dare 19 began. I was working that day (well, night actually), and on the office I couldn’t think of any game idea, but regardless I managed to find some spare time to follow how people were doing on IRC and on the Ludum Dare blog. That day I made my first contact with game developers that made games that I actually played. People that knew how to make games. And for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t just a guy making games alone in his house. I was there with literally hundreds of other developers, thinking, testing, giving advices, learning. In the morning, 8AM, I left the office inspired. I got home and rushed to the computer.

No words can describe the experience I had that weekend. It was awesome. I learned a lot with others, seeing how they created their games as the deadline creeps closer, and sharing knowledge with them. It’s amazing – and even a bit silly – to think that after 10 years trying to make games, I didn’t realize how many people are out there making games, and how much I could learn with them. After so many time trying to make things, managing to get stuff done in just 48 hours was a… refreshing experience, to say the least. It got me motivated again.

Ludum Dare helped me get into the right track. Before I entered it I had no vision of how the indie game scene actually is. I had no contact with the game developers that were right there, making the games I was playing, and that were people just like me, with a passion for developing games. The people at #ludumdare are always sharing experiences, talking about game development and helping each other, and by participating of all that I am learning much more than before. Also, I am now much more confident that I can too make games. If you’re serious about making games, join Ludum Dare – at least once. It’s worth it.

That weekend, on Ludum Dare 19, I made Fate of Mankind (see the timelapse of the development). It was the first game I finished after a long while. To my surprise, it did well – 6th place overall, and it even got mentioned on Bytejacker and Indiegames.com! That was pretty damn awesome. But still, the experience was certainly the greatest reward.

Feb
28

How many games can you create in 48 hours?

MiniLD #32 is over for me. Although I did not made the number of games I expected to make (mostly because I procrastinated a lot this weekend), I am satisfied with the result. The first part of my completely devious game-developing adventure was to create a pack of 50 or so games, with a very retro aesthetic. And as it turned out, 50 games was a bit out of hand after putting my procrastination time on the equation, so I felt comfortable reducing the goal to a puny number of 12 games. This pack of games was titled Super Advanced Hyperst-uh… err it’s the title you see above. Also known as 12-in-1 LC Collection.

After creating those 12 little games, I decided to make something more complex. My first thought was to create a randomly-generated RPG final boss battle thing. I went as far as to create randomly named characters with randomly generated status, and a menu. And it was actually looking pretty good to be honest. Of course, the random name generator was a bit crazy, generating things like Gridobrezhiu, Equicrocro, Pigrashounen, Her and other bizarre things. Aside from that, works quite nicely.

Utekyasos is a perfectly common name... somewhere

But once I got to code the enemy, I realized it would be way more complex and time-consuming than I thought. So instead I decided to go back and make a platformer instead. At first I had no clue what to create, so I just started drawing tiles, tying things together, coding collision and stuff. Then I had the idea to include a character from my previous game – Subject 0017 from Fate of Mankind, to be more specific. Then I had the idea to make it more or less like a sequel. And then… well, just play it. If you liked Fate, you’ll enjoy Tower of Mankind.

Now with more crumbling towers and cheesy lighting effects

Aaand weekend’s over, time to rest and enjoy some games! Anyway, I’m pretty happy with the results and had a lot of fun. You can check out both Tower of Mankind and the 12-in-1 LC Collection on my MiniLD #32 entry page.

Jan
13

2012 begins, Global Game Jam and next projects

Oh man, I’ve neglected this website for too long… but here we are again. A new year, and a new site as well. I’m still working on it so don’t mind the interface, I’m still fixing here and there. Hopefully I’ll have everything looking good here until the GGJ on January 27th.

If you’re not familiar with the event, Global Game Jam is a world-wide event for game developers to meet other game developers and do what they know better: develop games. Programmers, artists, composers and game designers all around the world will meet on local sites on the most remote corners of the planet to conceptualize, implement, test and release a game in 48 hours. Crazy? It sure is; but you wouldn’t be on the game industry if you were sane would you?

I’ll be attending the GGJ on UNICAMP (Campinas / SP). There’ll be dozens of developers there, and a couple of friends of mine. What kind of game we will make there? Well, I have no idea – not that it matters. It’s all about the experience, having fun and interacting with other people.

After the Global Game Jam, I want to work on something bigger than my last projects. Let’s see how that will turn out…

Jan
31

Why Not? Game Jam!

A team of four members (plus one), five pizzas and two days to develop a game. It’s our Why Not? Game Jam!

Our plan was to join the Global Game Jam 2011, but due to many reasons, we were unable to. Instead, we’ve decided to make a game here, by ourselves.

The team was originally composed of me (programming), @harielz (audio), @wilfreitas (general art) and @thunderbout (character art). We’re all members of the Why Not? Games team, and we worked at Batalha Otaku together. At the second day, @followmarcos joined the team, contributing with scenario art.

The original game idea was a GTA2-ish shooter game called Soul Extinction, where peace and science are prosperous and people lives much longer, thus resulting in a shortage of souls in heaven and hell. To prevent the extinction of souls, you have to dispatch souls by killing humans, demons and angels. Killing more good people than bad people would make hell angry, unleashing more powerful enemies against you. The opposite would also be true: kill too many bad guys and God would get angry at you.

Killing Spree!

Unfortunately we found out too late that the idea was rather ambitious for our team to complete within 48 hours. Still, we are happy with the result! In any case, due to bugs and lack of certain features, we’re still working on it before we can release it for download. But keep tuned, we’re releasing it ASAP!

Jan
11

Sixth Place

I am much happy to say that Fate of Mankind achieved sixth place on Ludum Dare 19. Huzzah!

This is really unexpected. I entered this Ludum Dare totally unprepared, without any ideas and with no coffee or ice cream. I almost gave up because I got frustrated with the graphics (I’m not an artist after all). Now I’m glad I didn’t.

Fate of Mankind is my first game that got so much popularity. Before this, Batalha Otaku got roughly five hundred visitors counting all the local conventions we’ve appeared. But that was a whole year of efforts from the Why Not? Games team to put our game on those conventions, so it’s different. My LD48 entry has been played 112 times on IndieDB only. I’m really happy!

But there’s no time to rest. I still need to work on the Extended version. A talented composer friend of mine, Daryl Banner, is helping me with the soundtrack this time. I still couldn’t find anyone willing to help me with art, so I’m doing those myself for now. Also, I rewrote a big part of how the game works. The original game had around 50min of game play, but this time I’m aiming for much more, something around three or four hours.

Thanks a lot for your support. I hope to keep improving this year. Who knows, I could be the 2011′s indie success story, right?

Dec
26

Ludum Dare votings

This is taking forever. There are a lot of entries I still need to vote on. I decided I won’t be reviewing all of them, because… There’s just too many.

I’ve been using a criteria to choose which games I’ll be voting first. Now, I already voted for the most popular entries, so I’m not voting for them anymore unless someone from the IRC asks me to. Some entries are close to 50 votes already. At the other hand, there are entries with two or three votes. I’m giving priority to these.

I’m also playing those that aren’t either popular or forgotten. I randomly pick one or two of these each day. So far I’ve been lucky with this method, as I’ve found a couple of pretty interesting gems amidst the mass of games.

Some highlights:

  • Circus Peanuts, the Zelda ripoff with a love for peanuts;
  • Time Pygmy, the Achievement Unlocked ripoff with a love for modern women;
  • Disco Five, a creative game where your goal is look for items to make money and go home;
  • Dinousaur Dance-Off, the web game where dinosaurs challenge each other by dancing;
  • Gyroids, a difficult game that reminds me of Marble Madness and Equinox;
  • The Day I Died, it’s annoying and difficult and makes my eyes bleed, but I like it;
  • Spelling Warrior, a cool idea that’ll make you hate Microsoft Sam even more;
  • Frolicking Furballs Safari Resort, the graphics are lovely and it has blood – ’nuff said;
  • Cardiac Arrest, the game itself is nothing incredibly amazing, but it’s for Master System!

Again, I’m just playing Windows and Web games. Sorry, but I’m unable to test Linux or Mac games. And I won’t get your source and compile it to Windows, because it’s bothersome and I barely have enough time to play the Windows games. Also, I’m lazy.

You can play the Ludum Dare 19 games here: all LD48 entries