A tale of two stores.

2014-06-06 08:20:29 by Squize

Just a very brief update to my last post.

Firstly, Lost Outpost the Directors Cut has been greenlit ! Now the downside is we have to actually make it, but it's really cool we're through it and thanks to everyone who voted for us.

I guess it's time to take a crash course in Unreal 4.

Next up DN8 Pulse is now on the appStore for iPads. We soft launched it the other week, but yesterday we launched it worldwide after adding the new Retro mode.

Old school baby

( The retro mode was my bit of self indulgence, you've got to have a bit of vanity to your own projects, otherwise what's the point ? )

So it's free with no IAP ( Although there is an ad right at the start, I'm not a fan of it but we have to eat, plus it's the only forced ad in the whole game ) and right here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dn8-pulse-bullet-hell/id878639479?ls=1&mt=8

I think that's it. What a big self promoting back slap of a post that was.


PS. DN8 should be coming to Android soon-ish. It's already running nicely on my Nexus7, but Android is Android so it's not straight forward. Oh, and possibly Ouya, for the 12 people in the world who have one ( And then the 3 of those who actually use it to play games ).

PPS. No plans yet for an iPhone release, I just don't know how playable it would be on a small screen. There's no point pushing something out just 'cause we can, it needs to be good on each platform. It may be fine, but I really need to test it and see.

DN8 Pulse is moving...

2014-05-01 06:03:47 by Squize

...to the iPad.

The past couple of months I've been working on porting the game over, thinking it wouldn't actually take the past couple of months ( So much for a nice quick port ).

Let's kick off with a clip of the game, it's easier to talk around that


( I have no idea if that'll embed properly, it'll be kinda cool if does ) < edit, nope >

In terms of content there's not a ton of new stuff in there ( Meant to be a quick port to test the waters and all that ), but the game itself has improved so much.
Looking at the original, the title screen is such a fucking mess where I had to shoe horn a load of extra things in there at the last minute, so this time it's been planned a lot better. Also because the game was a flop ( It was one of the first Stage3D games, and at that time you couldn't give them away to portals, I don't know if that's changed since ) I ended up just experimenting with it, like the fullscreen mode etc. which didn't do it any favours presentation wise.

Originally we used ND2D over Away3D for the display, for the port I've moved over to Starling, which performs much better. Added in to that I've done a ton of optimisations ( Linked lists, stupidly fast but a massive pain in the arse to actually work with ) and now it's running 1024x768 @60fps, on an iPad3.
Not much has had to be cut, we've dropped one planet from the background and the asteroids are gone. It seems fillrate is the main bottle neck on the mobile GPU, so the asteroids flying in and out of the screen just killed the framerate, and as framerate is king in a game like this visual love has to take a back seat.

So we're using AIR for this, and hell, that's impressive. That it runs the same on my iPad as it does on the desktop is just mental impressive. I can really recommend giving AIR a try if you haven't already, it's a thing of beauty.

One common complaint we got about DN8 Pulse was the music. I've gone back to what we did with the original and just sourced all the music from looperman.com and this time we've got 22 bass tracks, 23 drum loops plus 10 lead tracks, so the sound is much more random ( We also trigger different voices at different times, so for example some levels will just start with the drum beat then the bass will kick in ).
It's much closer to the Rez type thing I always wanted for the music. The only downside is that Flash seems to struggle with anything more than around 5 voices at once when aiming for 60fps ( That's even on the desktop ), which has limited me slightly.

And I think that's almost it for now. If anyone has any code related questions, or any questions at all, please feel free to ask them. We're looking at the game soft launching the end of next week, and I've still got a scary amount to do, so I better finish now and get back to it.

Thanks for reading.

And that's that done

2013-12-03 09:15:22 by Squize

So Lost Outpost is finally out. Finally.

It's such a weird mixture of feelings launching a game.

Part of it is a massive buzz, a game is made purely to be played, and launching it is the end goal, it's the full stop at the end of a project, and is just the best.

Part of it is abject fear, the worry that there's some huge game breaking bug in there and you won't realise until too late and by then everyone will have written your game off as being a turd and all that work is wasted as you never get a second chance. The game never had a huge cock surrounded by dancing Nazi's on the title screen once in all the testing, but the second you press publish...

And the last one, is the weirdest one. It's a sense of loss. When you're working on something for a long time, it's yours, it your secret private baby ( That's perhaps a bit of a creepy analogy ) and the moment it's out there that's gone for ever, it's no longer yours, it's for everyone. You're just a spectator with no control over it anymore.

Luckily the sane parts override the more mental, otherwise we'd just write games for ourselves.
Once you get that validation that at least one person likes it, everything is good in the world again. Knowing that at least one person has lost themselves in your game for a while, that they've sworn when they've lost a life because they care enough about it for it to be annoying ( Rather than just clicking on the next game in the never ending list ), that they've said "Cool" over something you've slaved over, that's what it's all about. It's the fucking best.

So now we're at that post launch stage, where we try and keep tabs on the game and what people think. Where we try and talk the crappy comments in good spirits ( It never gets any easier not biting ), try not to get too sucked into the praise too much and often say "Why didn't we think of that ?" when someone points out an obvious glaring flaw that we should never have missed in a million years.

And now it's time for the next thing. We're trying to get the game through Greenlight ( http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=177695239 ) but that's a while away yet, so it's time to get moving on the games which will happen before that.

Thanks to everyone whose voted / played / reviewed the game so far, we hope you enjoyed it.

Lost Outpost ( Outpost:Haven 2 )

2013-09-17 10:19:57 by Squize

Well it's only taken a year, but Lost Outpost is all but done. We're just in that nasty limbo of trying to sell it now, the fun part ( Is there an emoticon for "That's not really fun, it's the worst" 'cause that would have been perfect right there ).

Firstly, why isn't it just called Outpost 2 like it was all during development ? We've had to be a bit grown up and set up a proper company ( Garage Collective ) and it turns out the Outpost game name is already trade marked. Ok, I know that in the Flash world where you can have "Mario fucks Sponge Bob whilst Sonic watches [ Disapprovingly ]" and no one cares, but if we want to grow the franchise more than we have then using a trademarked name won't fly.
We weren't happy having to change it, we still call it O2 when chatting amongst ourselves, but that's the way it is.

So, why has it taken a year to make a Flash game ? Couple of reasons really. I had to do client work during that time, including working a month on site in the US ( Which I'm really not bitching about, I loved it ). As soon as I was getting that additional income Lux ( The artist ) and I agreed to turn the game into a big vanity project, we were going to give it all the love it needed to make it as good as possible. Which takes forever.

The other reason is, the game is huge. We've got 10 levels in the story mode ( What was it in Haven, 8 ? ) which may not sound like a lot more, but we went a lot more filmic in this one. Every level has at least one unique set piece. Again that may not sound too big a deal, but there's a reason most Flash games don't bother with them.
The reason they're a massive pain in the arse to do is they're usually one shot code. As a coder is drummed into you to write re-usable code ( That's why OOP is a thing ), with a set piece that's all thrown out of the window, it's a case of making a cool effect just for the one run through.
A good example in Lost Outpost is the rock slide on level 7. I wanted a sequence like in "The Mummy" / "Raiders of the lost Ark", a frantic run with shit chasing you and things smashing and falling apart around you. That meant having to have specific case physics objects, a new baddie type, and three days to fine tune the sequence.

Along with that we've re-written huge chunks of the original engine. The particle engine was totally re-coded and runs a lot lot quicker which means we've been able to drop mist into areas, the baddie AI was done from scratch too, it can handle 40 or so baddies in Swarm mode. Speaking of which the wingman AI from Outpost:Swarm was pulled into the game and re-done. He actually earns his own money for kills now and will go to a terminal to upgrade his weapon.

So yep, this is why it's taken a year :)

The game will def come here, NG is the spiritual home of the Outpost games, we just can't tell you when yet ( I did mention the whole trying to sell it / being in limbo hell didn't I ? ).

We've also recently put the game on Greenlite. We're aiming to package up the entire thing, Outpost:Haven, Swarm and Lost Outpost into a "Directors Cut".
If you have a Steam account we'd be really grateful if you could check it out here: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=177695239
( I hate asking like this, but, it's got to be done ).

Anyway I was going to finish this huge wall of text with embedding a video, but it doesn't seem to be liking the code, so it's just going to be a direct link I'm afraid.


Thanks for reading, and hopefully Lost Outpost will be on here as soon as possible. I know this post is half advert, which I'm not really a fan of, but if you have any questions about the game, code or design wise, then please ask.



2012-10-17 22:01:51 by Squize

So many people ask about a multiplayer version of Outpost that I thought I should write up some thoughts about it.

Firstly, we'd love to do it. It'd rock.

Why don't we just do it then, so many people want it and we want it ourselves ?

Firstly it'd mean a total rewrite of the engine. We use the Nape physics engine for so much in the game, not just the obvious stuff like the crates, but all the walls, baddies, bullets etc. It handles all the collisions, so nearly all the code base we've got would need to be thrown away and we'd have to start from scratch.
Ok, that's not the end of the world, reusing an engine from game to game is quite a luxury anyway.

Next up, and this is the big one, the cost. To do it right I think it would take 4/6 months. That's a long time in development and I'd have to do client work during that to pay the bills, delaying it even more.
Lets pretend that's not an issue, say I win the lottery and still want to make it instead of killing myself with drugs and hookers, we still have to pay for the servers for it to run on.

That means at least one server running in the US, one in Europe and possibly one to cover Asia. That's every month, and good servers don't come cheap, it's not like hosting a website.
That monthly cost means one thing, in-app purchases. If we went the usual sponsor route we'd get a one off lump sum payment ( Hurray ) but that would slowly be eaten away as we pay the server costs. We'd actually lose money every month.

Ok, so we're now looking at making it f2p to fund it. That means we want your lovely money, and lots of it please. What's that ? You've spent money on it and you expect to connect to the server first time, every time ? You expect your details to be secure ? You don't want other players cheating 'cause you've spent your hard earned money and what a turd it would be if you're losing to some one who hasn't invested a penny but instead is just cheating ?
That all means we have to use an authoritative server approach, basically all the game logic runs on the server, the client ( ie the swf of the game you've just loaded on NG ) just passes keyboard / mouse clicks to it. More expense, and a longer development time.
Also a lot of portals really live by the "Free" games boast they put on their layout, which means they don't want in-app purchases in games, which means the game won't spread as much as a normal Flash game would. Poo.

Where are we ? A lot of cost, a long development time and we don't earn a penny until its launched, and depending on how we handle the transactions it could be up to a month after launch before all the lovely cash comes in. Now there's no way on earth that a multiplayer game is going to come out bug free and without balancing issues. It's quite possible that during that month after launch when we're still waiting to earn a single penny from it we'll be working on it just as hard as ever. Working for free isn't the greatest motivator in the world.

What are the alternatives to get it done ? Ad revenue isn't really an option, whilst NG and Kong give devs a share, other sites don't, so we just get the pre-roll ad. The value of that fluctuates, before Christmas ad rev is fantastic, in January it's barely worth bothering with, and yet the server costs are still there.
Maybe we could pitch the idea to a large portal who can handle the server costs, and maybe we could get some money on launch, but it would still need micro transactions as the portal needs to pay for the servers plus claw back any money they may have paid us. We may get a percentage of those, but it really wouldn't be the lions share, and we'd still need to provide support and fresh content.

To finish off ( Finally ), yes we'd love to do it, but it's scary as fuck. It's a huge risk and we don't have the safety net of that lottery win to fall back on. If we can come up with a way to do it ( And not Kickstarter, I'd rather bank on the lottery ) then we will.


2012-01-04 14:04:12 by Squize

Someone asked me about the story in Outpost:Haven, and I thought it would make sense to write it up here properly.

The core idea behind the story was the thought of "Collective consciousness". The basic story itself is straight forward, and cliched enough, some alien eggs / artefacts are found when mining on the asteroid and brought aboard Haven.
What I wanted to add was the idea that the presence of these items would affect everyone on board.

The whole Owlmen thing is inspired by "Communion" by Whitley Strieber. In that book he wrote about an alien abduction experience, and how he only started to remember when he saw a toy owl, its eyes reminded him of the aliens eyes and it started coming back to him.
In Outpost the concept is that because these aliens are just so alien, that until you actually see them you just can't wrap your head around them, so they're pictured as "Owl men" instead by everyone. It's the closest representation the people onboard can make.

I felt that in a large crew there would be clear divides. The less spiritual would take to arms, the more open would see the owlmen dreams as a sign, and a "Cult" would form in preparation for the "Enlightenment". Again this is based on UFO lore, where there's the mechanical grey type aliens that perform abductions, and the more hippy like "Space brothers" who come to save us.

The whole "Ule" thing was to show that everyone was doomed right from the very start, all of them were infected by madness ( It's our version of "All work and no play..." from The Shining ). I liked the idea that no one even realised they were even writing it, they were all going insane and didn't even know it.
By the way, "Ule" is old English for "Owl".

And I think that's enough otherwise I'll be spewing out spoilers for the 2nd game.